Our research is focused on understanding the mechanisms and developing efficient catalysts for electrochemical energy conversion. Electrocatalysis plays a key role in the energy conversion processes that are central to renewable energy technologies including fuel cells and electrolyzers. Typically, the poor catalyst performance is the major source of efficiency loss for the energy conversion devices. A lack of fundamental understanding of the reaction mechanisms and catalyst design principles has been the major hurdle toward the development of efficient electrocatalysts and renewable energy conversion technologies. We will use scanning electrochemical microscopy and synchrotron-based X-ray spectroscopy to probe the atomic structure and chemical state of electrocatalysts in operando, thus to reveal the reaction mechanisms and structure–activity relationships. These understandings will be used to guide our rational design of highly active, selective, and stable catalysts for electrochemical synthesis and fuel cells.

(1) Developing Efficient Catalysts for Electro-synthesis and Fuel Cells
  • Electrochemical reduction of N2 and CO2 to liquid fuels at ambient conditions
  • Fuel cell catalysis, including fuel electro-oxidation and oxygen reduction reactions
  • Electrochemical promotion of catalysis effect and bifunctional catalysts
(2) In Situ Microscopy and Spectroscopy Study of Electrocatalysis
  • Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM) to map electrocatalytic activity on catalysts
  • Synchrotron-based X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy (XAS) to probe catalyst structure and chemical state
  • ATR Infrared Spectroscopy to understand the reaction mechanisms at the molecular level