The catalysis program at ORNL focuses on the design and application of new materials and processes required for advances in a range of technology challenges including conversion of refractory biomass, cracking and coupling of increasing supplies of light hydrocarbons especially CH4, coupling of bio-derived alcohol to produce value added fuels, control of NOx and CO emissions in low temperature diesel emissions and lower the cost for materials for anode and cathodes reactions in electrical energy storage and fuel cells. ORNL is using innovative approaches to explore both fundamental and applied aspects of catalysis in these areas.
We probe relationships between surface structure of catalytic oxides and their catalytic function using single crystal surfaces and synthetically tailored model catalysts with controlled morphologies to explore how site geometry alters surface reactions of oxygenates. Novel synthetic strategies are leading to new configurations of nanoscale catalytic particles including metal-metal oxide heteroparticles particles, mixed and core-shell binary and ternary alloy particles, layered catalysts conformally grown using atomic layer deposition, colloidal particles and controlled particle and pore morphologies using hydrothermal and templated growth methods. Functionalized carbons catalysts are used for gas phase reactions such as for oxidative dehydrogenation or electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction. Catalysts for controlling automotive emissions are probed under realistic conditions using specialized analytical equipment. Bimetallic exchanged zeolites active for converting NOx at low temperatures or converting biomass derived alcohols to hydrocarbons are being developed. Computational work underpins the experimental work including DFT modeling of surface molecular transformations, structure of colloidal Au thiolates, and metal adsorption on oxides. Single atom catalysis on inert sustrates has been shown to proceed by a mechanism that is normally seen in homogeneous catalysis. Catalytic research builds upon an array of analytical approaches for surface spectroscopy and assessment of catalytic reactivity and selectivity, and then further benefits from world-class capabilities in aberration corrected microscopy and neutron scattering techniques at ORNL. User facilities, such as the CNMS and SNS, provide an interface for collaboration with external catalysis researchers.
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