Thursday, April 16, 2009

A new era in catalysis research

One of my Ph.D students, Elvis Shoko recently had a very stimulating and productive trip to the U.S.A. I think the value of the trip was significantly enhanced by setting specific goals for each activity and writing a detailed trip report about what he learnt. During the trip he attended a Gordon Research Conference on Chemical Reactions on Surfaces. I thought his summary was very helpful and perceptive:

A brief overview of the field can be constructed from the talks given at the conference. On the experimental side, the trend is to move away from studying the properties of catalysts before and after a chemical reaction to studying them in situ. This provides the opportunity to watch surface reactions in real-time [Science 322, 932 (2008)]. This paradigm shift is matched on the theoretical side by a shift from trying to understand surface reactions from a study of equilibrium structures to real-time studies using techniques from kinetic- and adaptive kinetic Monte Carlo. This follows the realization that dynamic centres are key to catalytic processes [JACS 127, 9267 (2005)]. Another important trend on the experimental side is the nanoscale engineering of catalyst materials. One of the key drivers for the investment in catalyst research in the 21st century is the growing demand for clean energy as detailed in recent reports from the US Department of Energy and the National Academies.

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