Surface Chemical Physics - Zhenrong Zhang

Dr. Zhang’s research program aims at 1) the synthesis of controlled “inverse” model oxide nanocatalysts and 2) the atomic-level understanding of their structure-activity relationships. “Inverse” model catalysts offer the selection that is not possible in “regular” model catalysts but are important in energy and environmental applications. The basic research effort in nanostructured catalysis could provide new methods for design, synthesis, and characterization of catalysts with unique properties. Examples of applications that will be studied in this program are the catalytic conversion of CO2 to liquid fuel, the photocatalytic H2O splitting to produce hydrogen as alternative energy source and the reduction of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide in automotive emissions.

Model nanocatalysts will be synthesized in both Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM) UHV system and the Metal-organic Chemical Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) apparatus. Scanning tunneling microscopy (SPM) coupled with other UHV electron spectroscopic methods will be employed to achieve a detailed understanding of the growth of controllable oxide nanostructures and ultrathin films. The controlled synthesis of oxide nanocatalysts will enrich the preparation of novel nanocatalysts. More importantly, the influence of the surface structure and the oxide/metal interface on the promotion action of transition metal oxides on the reactivity of metal surfaces will be investigated.

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