Catalyst Discovery and Design

Heterogeneous catalysis gives us considerable latitude to address global challenges in energy and environment. The development of advanced catalysts will help us create a sustainable future. It relies on the fundamental understanding of catalytic processes. Our research interests focus on catalytic materials with controllable structural parameters. These well-defined materials have opened up many new opportunities for the study of structure-sensitive reactions. One of our major endeavors is to develop synthetic methodologies to expand the scope of the material pool. We are particularly interested in multi-component systems including core-shell structures, phase-segregated binary systems, and metal/organic interfaces. With well-defined materials in hand, we can investigate their structure dynamics and structure-property relations under reactive conditions using advanced characterizations, such as environmental transmission electron microscopy and in-situ spectroscopy. We are currently applying this approach in the study of electrocatalysis and heterogeneous organic synthesis.

Electrocatalysts are at the forefront of renewable energy technologies such as water electrolysis and fuel cells. We are actively employing the materials-by-design approach for electrocatalyst discovery and understanding. We have developed low-platinum and highly-durable catalysts for oxygen reduction reaction, which holds great potential to accelerate the realization of affordable hydrogen proton exchange membrane fuel cells. We are testing new concepts that can break the scaling relations in electrocatalysis. We aim to activate chemically-inert molecules at an industrially-viable rate by conceiving multi-functional electrochemical interfaces.


Zhiqiang Niu†, Nigel Becknell†, Yi Yu, Dohyung Kim, Chen Chen, Nikolay Kornienko, Gabor A Somorjai, Peidong Yang*. "Anisotropic Phase Segregation and Migration of Pt in Nanocrystals en route to Nanoframe Catalysts" Nat. Mater. 2016, 15, 1188‒1194. DOI: 10.1038/nmat4724.

Shouping Chen†, Zhiqiang Niu†, Chenlu Xie, Mengyu Gao, Minliang Lai, Mufan Li, and Peidong Yang*. "Effects of Catalyst Processing on the Activity and Stability of Pt–Ni Nanoframe Electrocatalysts" ACS Nano 201812, 8697‒8705. DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.8b04674.

Organic synthesis plays a central role in the fine chemical industry. Heterogenizing the homogeneous organic synthesis will exert enormous influence over the future manufacturing process. We have developed interdisciplinary approaches to apply well-defined nanocrystals in organic synthesis and sustainable chemistry. Functional building blocks are assembled into hierarchical structures and work cooperatively to activate targeted molecules. We envision that the body of work will provide an informative guide for the search of replacement of homogeneous catalysts.


Guofeng Zhao†, Fan Yang†, Zongjia Chen†, Qingfei Liu, Yongjun Ji, Yi Zhang, Zhiqiang Niu*, Junjie Mao, Xinhe Bao, Peijun Hu, Yadong Li*. "Metal/Oxide Interfacial Effects on the Selective Oxidation of Primary Alcohols" Nat. Commun. 2017, 8, 14039. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms14039.

Bin Xiao†, Zhiqiang Niu†, Yang-Gang Wang, Wei Jia, Jian Shang, Lan Zhang, Dingsheng Wang, Yao Fu, Jie Zeng, Wei He, Kai Wu, Jun Li, Jinlong Yang, Lei Liu*, Yadong Li*. “Copper Nanocrystal Plane Effect on Stereoselectivity of Catalytic Deoxygenation of Aromatic Epoxides” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2015, 137, 3791‒3794. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.5b01391.