Our research focuses on understanding the electrocatalytic reaction mechanisms and developing efficient electrocatalysts for renewable 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 understandings of the electrocatalytic mechanisms and catalyst design principles has been the major hurdle toward the development of efficient electrocatalysts for renewable energy conversion. We will use scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) and synchrotron-based X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) to probe the local activity, structure, and chemical state of electrocatalysts in operando, thus to elucidate the reaction mechanisms and structure–activity relationships. The understandings will be used to guide a rational design of highly active and selective catalysts for electrosynthesis of fuels from abundant natural resources.

(1) Rational Design of Electrocatalysts for Sustainable Fuel Synthesis
  • Gas-diffusion electrolysis of carbon dioxide to multi-carbon products
  • Electrochemical synthesis of ammonia from nitrogen and nitrate at ambient conditions
  • Electrochemical synthesis of H2O2 via 2-electron oxygen reduction reaction
(2) Understanding and Control of the Catalyst Microenvironment in Electrocatalysis
  • Elucidating the effect of cations in electroreduction reactions
  • Optimizing the wetting properties of microenvironment for gas-involving electrocatalysis
(3) Investigating Electrocatalytic Mechanisms using Operando Microscopy and Spectroscopy
  • Mapping electrocatalytic activity and probing local electrokinetics by SECM
  • Revealing the structure and chemical state of electrocatalysts by operando XAS