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Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 4:00pm
A Material-Centric Approach to the Designer-Catalyst Challenge
Solar and wind are becoming economical, aided by rapidly declining cost and increasing efficiencies. As renewable energy gains momentum, electrochemical processes that use electrical energy to transform readily available chemical resources (such as water and carbon dioxide) into energy-dense fuels and high-value chemicals represents an opportunity ripe for development. Presently, these transformations are not cost-effective because of the slow kinetics of the electrochemical reactions. Past studies have attributed these limitations to the catalyst’s inability to stabilize reaction intermediates; even precious metals have challenges. In this presentation, I will describe how we verify this hypothesis by directly measuring the relationship between the intermediate stabilization and the catalysis kinetics. Our approach uses advanced deposition tools to prepare single-orientation transition-metal oxides with high structural perfections. We utilize these advances, in combination with surface science and spectroscopy tools, to measure the effectiveness of the intermediate stabilization. From this measurement, we experimentally establish the relationship between the intermediate stabilization and the electrochemical kinetics. I will discuss the implications of these results, which include new insights on the mechanisms of electrochemical transformations and how we can explore new phases not accessible via thermochemical means to realize higher-performing catalysts.