University of California, Riverside

UCR Center for Catalysis


Our Center covers research in most areas of catalysis. The emphasis is to develop highly synergistic groups in order to combine all aspects of catalysis into one team focused on developing new catalytic systems for unique applications. The intent is to facilitate interactions to be able to combine aspects of homogeneous, heterogeneous, and enzymatic catalysis together with new nanotechnologies for the design of catalytic systems with unique selectivity for specific processes. Emphasis is placed on addressing catalytic needs in several areas of current importance in society, including problems in:

  • Energy storage (liquid fuels from photocatalysis) and generation (fuel cells)
  • Environmental remediation (air and water pollution)
  • Green chemistry (chemical production with minimum waste)
  • Synthesis of specialty chemicals (pharmaceuticals)

Below we provide a brief description of some of the ongoing projects in the Center.

Development of Highly Efficient Reductive Photocatalyst for Environmental Remediation and Energy Conversion

 Haizhou Liu
Co-PIs: Yadong Yin, Ashok Mulchandani

The overarching objective of this project is to develop nanomaterial-based photocatalysis and biocatalysis strategies for both efficient water treatment and carbon-neutral energy production. Specifically, the project proposes a new paradigm of catalysis based on three related themes: (1) the synthesis of magnetically recyclable TiO2 photocatalysts with reductive properties using advanced material techniques; 2) the application of the synthesized TiO2 photocatalysts for contaminant removal and water treatment; and 3) the application of these catalysts for enzymatic conversion of CO2 to formic acid and other value-added fuel chemicals.


Molecular Catalysis in Soft Materials via Supramolecular Chemistry for Artificial Photosynthesis

 W. Hill Harman
Co-PIs: Richard Hooley, Wenwan Zhong

The aim of this project is to develop membrane-bound assemblies of molecular catalysts and photon-harvesting molecules for artificial photosynthesis. We combine expertise in supramolecular chemistry, molecular electrocatalysis, and membrane assemblies to design and synthesize artificial constructs in which photon-capture and fuel-forming catalyst elements are housed within a lipid membrane.


Semiconductor Nanocrystal Photocatalysis for Organic Synthesis

 Dave Martin
Co-PIs: Ming Lee Tang, Christopher Bardeen, Richard Hooley

The goal of this project is to establish semiconductor nanocrystals as catalysts for the synthesis of complex organic molecules through a novel interdisciplinary approach. Our approach is to use the well-defined CdSe nanocrystal system to absorb photons. The photogenerated electrons are to be used to reduce organic species in solution to form organic radical anions, which are established partners in radical-radical coupling reactions or precursors to neutral radicals that may undergo cyclization or intermolecular C–C bond formation. In order to maintain overall neutrality of the nanocrystal, the leftover hole will be scavenged by a sacrificial electron donor such as a tertiary amine. The success of this strategy will provide enhanced control of photophysical properties of the catalysts and the first heterogeneous approach to organic photoredox catalysis.


Digital Control of Selective Chemical Transformations via Plasmon Activated Biocatalysis

 Phillip Christopher
Co-PIs: Nosang Myung, Ian Wheeldon, Xin Ge, Christopher Bardeen, Francisco Zaera

This project is targeted to develop and characterize hybrid inorganic/biological catalyst architectures for photo-activated redox biocatalysis. The purpose is to generate key data that demonstrates and begins to understand the fundamental mechanisms of this technology from which we can build unique control in selective multi-step catalytic systems. The near term goal of this project is to construct hybrid inorganic/biological catalyst architectures that allow for digital control of chemo- or stereo-selective small molecule synthesis through external stimulation via photon excitation.


Novel Nanoarchitectures for Selective Multistep Catalysis

 Francisco Zaera
Co-PIs: Richard Hooley, Yadong Yin

The goal here is to develop new synthetic strategies and characterization approaches for the rational design of novel nanoarchitectures to empower a precise control of nanoscale transport and reaction kinetics in multistep catalysts. Different catalytic functionalities are to be spatially coordinated via directional mass transport and reaction at the nano scale. Synthetic and characterization experiments will be coupled with molecular- and continuum-scale modeling to unravel the complex dynamics and transport properties associated with the proposed multifunctional systems.


Multiscale Modeling for Multistep Catalysis: Inhomogeneity, Molecular Transport, and the Kinetics of Spatially Coordinated Reactions

 Jianzhong Wu
Co-PIs: Bryan M. Wong, Gregory Beran, De-en Jiang

This project aims to study the electronic properties and the local solvent structure of spatially organized molecular functional groups in aqueous solutions. The overarching goal is to develop a multiscale computational platform for predictive design of multi-step catalytic systems. In concert with ongoing experimental efforts at UCR for synthetic and characterization of nano-architectures for multistep catalytic reactions, the computational work will be designed to unravel the inhomogeneous distributions of reaction species near catalytic surfaces, complex kinetics and transport at local and continuum scales associated with the proposed multifunctional systems.



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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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