SUNCAT Seed Funding Program

The SUNCAT Seed Funding Program is sponsored by the Stanford Dean of Engineering, the Stanford Dean of Research, SLAC, and the SUNCAT Industrial Affiliates Program. It supports exploratory, ground breaking, collaborative research in interface science and catalysis with special emphasis of sustainable solutions to energy production, storage, and use as well as chemical production.

Robert Sinclair Group

PI: Robert Sinclair

Roy Kim

Characterization of porous carbon materials with high resolution TEM

Because understanding the structure of the nano materials is important, we use transmission electron microscope (TEM) to characterize porous carbon materials. With high resolution TEM images, such as the stacking distance between two graphene layers can be measured. In addition, electron energy loss spectroscopy is used to find whether the carbon atoms are in a graphitic state or in an amorphous state.


The figure is a TEM image of a carbon material showing different spacing between graphene layers.

Zhenan Bao Group

PI: Zhenan Bao

Shucheng Chen

Design and synthesis of porous carbon-based materials as electrocatalysts for H2O2 production

In this project, we focus on the design and synthesis of porous carbons as electrocatalysts. We use a novel approach that fabricate a 3D interconnected conjugated polymer network through the incorporation of a structure-directing agent during polymer synthesis. By varying the monomer, structure directing agent or oxidizer, we are able to tune the chemical compositions and pore structures, which may provide interesting electrocatalytic properties. Specifically, we focus on using these carbon materials for the production of hydrogen peroxide via the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) for environmental applications.

John To

Nitrogen-doped carbon for Oxygen reduction and evolution reactions

I worked on design and synthesis of nitrogen-doped hierarchical carbon (NHC) synthesized via a scalable route that allow for facile device integration. The NHC catalyst exhibits excellent performance for both the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) as demonstrated by means of electrochemical studies as well as integration into the oxygen electrode of a regenerative fuel cell. The activities observed for both the ORR and the OER are comparable to that achieved by state-of-the-art Pt and Ir in an alkaline environment.

Thomas Bligaard Group

PI: Thomas Bligaard

Linan Zhang

New proton donor: The influence of [2,6-lutidinium]+ on N2 reduction

Ammonia is among the chemicals produced in the largest quantities in the chemical industry, and the synthesis of NH3 is probably the most studied reaction in heterogeneous catalysis. Recently, it has been shown that transition metal complexes based on molybdenum can reduce N2 to ammonia for the artificial process at room temperature and ambient pressure. We demonstrate that the proton donor [2,6-lutidinium]+ ([LutH]+), is a viable substitute for hydronium, since it binds selectively to N2. We have also shown that coadsorption with [LutH]+ will selectively stabilize the *N2H intermediate via formation of hydrogen bonds to the adsorbate but not to *NH or *NH2, indicating that scaling relation between limiting potential and binding energies can be broken with non-aqueous solvents.


Limiting potentials for N2 electro-reduction as a function of *N-binding energy descriptor for the fcc metals. Blue dots represent the influence of the high pKa of the weak acid [LutH]+.

Bruce Clemens Group

PI: Bruce Clemens and Thomas Jaramillo

Brenna Gibbons

Sputtered Nanoparticles for Catalysis

Gas-phase condensation allows for the synthesis of a wide variety of nanoparticles, including bi- and tri-metallic particles, with good control over size and composition. Armed with this highly versatile deposition method, we are investigating nanoparticles for a variety of catalytic reactions, including oxygen reduction, carbon dioxide reduction, and ammonia synthesis.

Stacey Bent Group

PI: Stacey Bent

Jonathan G. Baker

Atomic Layer Deposition of Electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Evolution Reaction (OER)

Of earth-abundant materials, nickel-iron oxide based catalysts are found to be among the most active for OER. Recently, it has been shown that the activity of these nickel-iron oxide catalysts can be further improved through the addition of aluminum. To study the effects of aluminum on the activity of nickel oxide based catalyst, atomic layer deposition (ALD) is used to synthesize ternary NiAlxOy films. The use of ALD allows for the deposition of conformal thin films with angstrom-level control over thickness and atomic composition. Using ALD, the effects of atomic arrangement, composition, and morphology of nickel oxide films is being explored to determine the intrinsic effects of aluminum in nickel oxide catalysts.

Matteo Cargnello Group

PI: Matteo Cargnello

Jay A Schwalbe

Electrochemical Synthesis of Ammonia

Ammonia is a vital fertilizer and chemical feedstock. We are developing novel chemical processes to synthesize it under moderate conditions, avoiding the capital requirements of the traditional Haber-Bosch process and enabling distributed production.

Thomas Jaramillo Group

PI: Thomas Jaramillo

Zhihua Chen 'Bill'

Electrocatalytic generation of H2O2 for portable low cost water purification in the developing world.

Joshua McEnaney

Ammonia Synthesis Project

The Haber-Bosch process is heralded as one of the most impactful discoveries of the last century. However, this high pressure, high temperature process requires over 1% of the global energy supply and 3-5% of the natural gas supply to produce the required molecular hydrogen, leaving a significant carbon footprint. We are exploring new electrochemical and thermochemical methods for ammonia synthesis, focusing on clean energy inputs and more mild conditions.

Xiaolin Zheng Group

PI: Xiaolin Zheng

Xinjian Shi

Electrochemical water oxidation based H2O2 production

In this project, catalyst materials were used with the electrochemical method for obtaining H2O2 from water, which is a 2-electron process instead of 4-electron process to get O2. Several common used materials include BiVO4, SnO2, WO3, etc., based on the theoretical study about the energy barrier and the products preference in different potential ranges.

Sangwook Park

Cobalt decorated desulfurized molybdenum disulfide for hydrogen evolution reaction

Jens Nørskov Group

PI: Jens Nørskov

Joe Gauthier

Solvation Effects in Surface Electrochemistry

In this work, we use Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations to study the effect of an explicit solvent on the binding energies of intermediates in the Oxygen Evolution Reaction (OER). Our results indicate that, depending on the dominating coverage, the solvent can have a significant effect on ∆GOOH - ∆GOH, a descriptor used for the prediction of the overpotential of a catalyst. Our studies, which primarily considered IrO2, should be generalizable to other oxides, such as TiO2 or RuO2.

Andrew Doyle
PIs: Aleksandra Vojvodic, Jens Nørskov

Exploring Oxyhydroxides for Confined Catalysis

Our recent work (Doyle et al, ChemCatChem 2015) showed that introducing a nanoscale channel in rutile water splitting catalysts could drastically increase efficiency and circumvent previously limiting energetic scaling relationships. In this work we seek to close the gap with experimental observations by studying oxyhydroxide materials, which are naturally layered at length scales that may lead to similar increases in catalytic performance. Our results could inform next-generation catalyst development, as we begin to reconsider the importance of bulk crystal structure on measured catalytic activity.

Harold Y. Hwang Group

PI: Harold Y. Hwang (Applied Physics & SIMES, SLAC)

Yasuyuki Hikita (Staff Scientist, SIMES, SLAC)

Engineering Atomically Controlled Complex Oxide/Aqueous Interfaces for Solar Water Splitting

This project proposes to establish a research platform for developing functional complex oxide/aqueous interfaces using atomic scale controlled epitaxial heterostructures, in order to atomistically design their photoelectrochemical properties. The high degree of materials control in idealized yet realistic structures could overcome the difficulties found in conventional approaches using polycrystals or single crystals of a limited number of oxides, and allow direct comparison with theory and spectroscopic probes to establish design principles for future development.