Precious metals and metal alloys are important heterogeneous catalysts for renewable energies and materials. However, both of them have their limitations. Precious metals have low natural abundance and are expensive. Metal alloys have unstable surfaces due to surface segregation under reaction conditions, which renders the identification of active sites and the understanding of reaction mechanisms difficult. My research group will address these limitations by developing new intermetallic NP catalysts. Intermetallic compounds, which consist of two or more metallic elements, adopt specific crystal structures as well as electronic structures different from the constituent elements. The modified electronic structures of intermetallic compounds make them unique catalytic materials. It has been proposed that such compounds should be treated as new â€œelementsâ€ considering their potential in catalysis. The inherent properties of intermetallic compounds, stable and exhibit a large variety of structures will help us to discover catalysts with stable surfaces, consisting of more abundant metals, to replace unstable alloy and precious metal catalysts.
Program mentor: Wenyu Huang, assistant professor of chemistry, Iowa State University