Our research focuses on the selective transformation of small molecules such as CO, CO2, and CH4 into liquid fuels and value-added chemicals. It is of significant importance to achieve and illuminate the activation of stable chemical bonds between C, H, and O atoms over metal-based heterogeneous catalysts. Complexities and challenges stem from the inherent multi-component aspects of heterogeneous catalysis such as diversified active sites and vague mechanisms. To this end, we are devoted to tackling these issues from material and mechanistic points of views at the atomic level.
Atomic-level design of active sites
Atomic-level design of active sites not only contributes to optimizing the catalytic performance, but also offers an ideal platform for further mechanistic studies. The main goal in this perspective is to engineer the geometric and electronic properties of metal-based catalysts via precise atomic arrangement and specific elemental positioning. We have developed a systematic strategy to manipulate the sizes, facets, compositions, and defects of metal-based catalysts such as single metals, random alloys, intermetallics, and heterostructures. We have also deliberately designed the coordination environment and lattice strain to modify the orbit, spin, and their hybridization in strongly correlated systems. For constructing active sites from the basic unit, we have atomically dispersed metal atoms on different supports such as metals, oxides, carbides, sulfides, nitrides, and graphene to utilize their steric and electronic effect.
Atomic-level understanding of catalytic mechanisms
Our research pursues an advanced understanding of chemical catalysis at the atomic level. The main goal in this perspective is to elucidate the mass (e.g. elements and electrons) and energy (e.g. thermal energy, electric energy, luminous energy, and chemical energy) transfer during the reaction process. We are interested in illuminating the active sites/phases, reaction paths, surface reconstruction, adsorption of reactants and intermediates, desorption of products, spillover, plasmonics, and other phenomena occurring under reaction conditions. The atomic mechanisms of catalytic reactions are investigated via ex-situ and in-situ characterizations. These techniques include (solid-state) nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, mass spectrometry, Brunauer-Emmett-Teller measurements, temperature-programmed desorption, and in-situ diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectrometry. Synchrotron-based spectroscopy techniques such as in-situ X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and X-ray absorption fine structures are also utilized to monitor surfaces under reaction conditions.
Our ultimate goal is to achieve high selectivity for the desired products at maximum activity during the conversion of CO, CO2, and CH4 as well as industrialize our academic findings. We aim to establish a tightly-woven and supportive group wherein members are equipped with expansive visions and sufficient abilities to make a striking impact in the fields of selective transformation of small molecules.