Catalysis and Reaction
Understanding chemical reactions, developing better catalysts, and engineering reacting systems is a core component of chemical engineering. Research at Michigan in this increasingly significant area includes biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals, electrochemical reactions, plasma chemistry, petroleum production, biochemical engineering, environmental catalysis, fuel cells, CO2 capture and conversion. We employ computational, experimental and modeling approaches, often in concert, to solve pressing societal problems.
Catalysis research in Professor Goldsmith’s group is focused on applying first-principles modeling (e.g., density-functional theory and molecular dynamics) and predictive theories to gain a deeper understanding of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalytic processes for natural gas conversion, pollution reduction, and energy generation. Some systems of interest include dispersed metal ions on amorphous supports, metallic clusters supported on metal oxides, and homogeneous organometallic catalysts for a variety of important reactions.
Professor Mark Kushner and his group computationally investigate the fundamental transport and kinetic properties of low temperature plasmas (partially ionized gases), plasma chemistry and plasma surface interactions and their application to society benefiting technologies. Current projects include plasma fabrication of advanced materials for nano-electronics, plasma medicine (use of plasmas for human healthcare), macro- and micro-plasmas as photonic sources, plasmas in liquids, plasma treatment of porous polymeric membranes, and plasma aided combustion for energy efficient transport systems.
The central objective of Professor Suljo Linic’s lab is the development of predictive theories of surface chemistry related to heterogeneous catalysis, electrocatalysis and photocatalysis. Lab members are currently working on a number of projects that aim to address various issues in the fields of energy and environment, functional nanomaterials, industrially-important reactions and fundamental heterogeneous catalysis.
Professor Nikolla and her group focus on studying issues related to heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis for energy and chemical conversion/storage. Current research projects involve electrocatalysis in alkaline and acid media for low temperature fuel cells and electrolyzers, H2O and CO2 electrolysis using solid oxide electrolysis cells, energy storage in alkaline metal air batteries, hydrodeoxygenation of biomass-derived feedstock, heterogeneous catalytic pathways for recycling of plastic waste, thermal catalytic reduction of CO2 to chemicals/fuels, heterogeneous catalysis for emission control.
Catalysis research in Professor Johannes Schwank’s lab is focused on correlations between the catalyst structure, composition and catalytic function in reactions of industrial importance. Current projects include autothermal reforming of hydrocarbons, solid oxide fuel cell anode catalysts, automotive emission control catalysis, photocatalysis, production of synthetic fuel via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, cellulosic biomass conversion into fuels and value added chemicals, and gas sensors.
Catalysis research in the Singh Lab focuses on understanding heterogeneous catalysis and electrocatalysis through experimental rate measurements, spectroscopy and adsorption measurements. By looking at how catalyst surfaces influence rates and selectivities, we aim to understand and improve catalysts used for energy storage, fuel production from biomass waste, and waste remediation such as nitrate reduction.
In the development of biofuels, Professor Fei Wen and her team rely on enzymatic catalysis to degrade biomass to sugars, which can be fermented.
Professor Robert Ziff and his group have developed a kinetic Monte Carlo technique that allows reaction dynamics to be studied efficiently, including the kinetic phase transitions that occur in such systems. Ziff and his colleagues apply this to the reactions that take place on an automotive catalytic converter. The group also uses percolation models to study such phenomena as flow through porous media, conductivity of composites such as nano-tubules, polymer gelation and growth of the giant component in networked systems.