Discovering Active Catalyst Structures By Nanoscale Imaging
Heterogeneous catalysts facilitate chemical processes in the industry, enable environmental cleanup, and are also key to solar energy conversions; yet their atomic mechanisms are poorly understood in most cases. These solid-state materials are chemically complex and spatially heterogeneous on the nanometric level, which is the primary cause of the gap in their atomistic understanding. In my research program, I will use an unconventional super-resolution imaging approach to resolve the identity of active nanostructures of complex solid-state catalysts. By determining the nature of the catalytically active structure, we will be able to elucidate the atomic mechanism of the catalyst’s function. Also, as a direct result of my proposed method, we will be able to rationally engineer future “super-catalysts” specifically for reduction of carbon dioxide to methanol and for solar hydrogen production.