Our group focuses on understanding reactions on metal oxide surfaces. Our current interest is measuring fundamental surface reactions on iron oxide materials. Iron oxide is an earth-abundant metal oxide that plays a large role in heterogeneous catalytic processes and environmental reactions in soils, atmospheric particulate reactions and corrosion mechanisms. We aim to connect fundamental surface chemical reactions that are prevalent in heterogeneous catalysis to understanding complex surface reactions in environmental science.
1) Bridging the materials gap: How do reactions change with size and crystal structure? We design and grow metal oxide nano and meso-sized structures and compare surface reactions with pristine single crystal surfaces to address these issues.
2) Bridging the pressure and phase gap: How do we connect reactions under controlled conditions (ultra-high vacuum) with ambient pressure conditions and reactions in the condensed phase? The variables that change in these scenarios are oxygen pressure, relative humidity and chemical concentration. We have the capability to measure reactions at the gas/solid and liquid/solid interface to cross boundaries and measure reactions at interfaces.
3) Bridging the chemical gap: We aim to connect what is known of catalytic reactions and apply this knowledge to measuring and understanding complex environmental processes. By measuring fundamental surface reactions, we apply learned knowledge of simplistic systems to complex chemical systems.
Our plan encompasses designing model systems using bottom-up surface chemical approaches by surface functionalization of well-defined surfaces and growing tailored metal oxide structures using molecular level controlled deposition processes. These new materials that vary in size and crystal structure will then be used as model systems to compare to reaction on well-defined crystalline surfaces to study chemical reactions at the gas/solid and liquid/solid interface.
Our strategy will connect fundamental surface chemical reactions on model and complex metal oxide materials that will uncover critical reactions addressing energy and environmental challenges.