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Physical Sciences

Catalysis


Experts at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory contributed to the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences report identifying the catalysis research needed to stretch the fossil fuel supply and to make biomass, hydrogen, and sunshine significant energy sources. Enlarged View

Catalysis is a particular strength of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, taking advantage of the Labís historical emphasis on chemistry and chemical engineering. Across the Lab, our catalysis programs at the Institute for Integrated Catalysis range from fundamental science to process development, with significant activities in the following areas:

  • Fundamental catalysis science: synthesis, characterization, kinetics and simulation
  • Catalytic vehicle emission measurement and control
  • Heterogeneous catalysis of bio-based feedstock
  • Electro- and photo-activated reactions
  • Catalyst and process development for intensified processes
  • Novel, materials with hierarchical architectures

Fundamental catalysis research is organized around four thrusts

  • Reactions in the presence and absence of water
  • Conversion of carbon dioxide
  • Production and utilization of hydrogen
  • Electrochemical activation of hydrogen and nitrogen

Catalyst Synthesis. We have a forefront effort in the design and synthesis of ligands and molecular catalysts and a growing emphasis on the development of synthetic methods for contact catalysts to provide nano-dimensional catalysts with well-defined geometric and electronic structures to minimize the traditional issue of extracting detailed molecular site information from ensemble-averaged experiments.

Characterization. Our work in catalysis both benefits from and has helped motivate work at PNNL on state-of-the-art chemical imaging. We utilize in operando characterization using high-pressure (3,000-5,000 psi)/variable-temperature (-150°C to 150°C) multinuclear NMR, FT-IR, electrochemical or x-ray techniques (250°C) whenever possible to observe catalyst species while simultaneously obtaining kinetic data. Our proximity to EMSL also gives us ready access to ultrafast laser spectrometers and atomic resolution electron and atomic force microscopy. We are contributing members of the Synchrotron Catalysis Consortium at the National Synchrotron Light Source and have devised cells that afford in situ and in operando characterizations of catalysts.

Theory and simulation. We develop new theoretical approaches and apply them to characterize the structural, electronic, and spectroscopic properties of catalysts and adsorbed reaction intermediates. These computational studies are intimately coupled to the experimental efforts in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis.

Contacts: Johannes Lercher, Chuck Peden, Robert Weber

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