In an increasingly carbon-constrained world, lignocellulosic biomass, natural gas, and carbon dioxide have emerged as attractive options to supply energy, fuels, and chemicals at scale in a cleaner and more sustainable manner. However, the unique chemical makeup of these alternative carbon sources has created daunting conversion challenges, requiring the development a new generation of robust, active, and selective catalysts. In this lecture, I will show how advanced synthesis techniques can be coupled with rigorous reactivity and characterization studies to uncover unique synergies in nanostructured catalysts.
First, the cooperativity between catalytic pairs in metalloenzyme-like microporous materials will be demonstrated. Specific examples will include the synthesis of diacids from coupling bio-derived keto acids, and the conversion of methane into acetic acid via tandem oxidation and carbonylation reactions.
Second, new developments in the use of heterometallic early transition metal carbide (TMC) nanoparticles will be described as a novel platform to replace (or drastically reduce) noble metal utilization in electro- and thermo-catalytic applications. A new method to synthesize TMCs and core-shell TMC-noble metal structures with exquisite control over composition, size, crystal phase, and purity will be demonstrated. Structure-activity descriptors can then be elucidated and used to guide the design of new catalytic materials.