Electrocatalysis is a promising means to reduce the climate impacts of the chemical industry by combining renewable electricity, abundant feedstocks, and catalysts made of earth-abundant materials. The study of the surface of electrocatalytic materials is essential for the advancement of the field since all inner-sphere reactions occur at the surface and the surface modulates charge transfer and outer-sphere interactions with solvents, electrolytes, and substrates. Nanoscale catalysts enable these studies due to their high surface-to-bulk atom ratio. My research involves studying transition metal phosphide (TMP) nanoparticles. TMPs have been shown to be excellent catalysts for hydroprocessing and hydrogen evolution, which provide a foundation for developing new catalytic systems involving the addition and removal of H atom equivalents. I will probe 1) TMPs’ surface chemistry though benchtop operando X-ray absorption and emission spectroscopy, 2) H-binding strength of TMPs through quantitative reactions with hydrogen atom transfer reagents, and 3) hydrogen evolution reaction activity of intrinsic and surface-modified nanoparticles through electrochemical methods. These results will inform surface modification techniques to improve TMP catalytic activity, stability, and selectivity.
Advisor: Brandi Cossairt – Chemistry