My research lies in the design and development of heterogeneous catalytic systems and employment of operando spectroscopic techniques to monitor these under real working conditions. The focus is on the nano-engineering of catalytic solid materials, for the replacements for existing expensive and environmentally harmful industrially required reagents. In particular, I am exploring the development of catalytic materials for sustainable chemical conversions, including selective oxidations of alcohols and carbonyl species and biomass upgrading. I am also interested in the employment of functional nanomaterials for alternative applications, including gas storage and healthcare. The overarching aim of my research is the development of novel porous nanomaterials, via an educated design approach, that have the capacity to address issues of public concern.
With regard to catalysts engineering, I am interested in the role that support materials play. This covers both the role that they play with regard to mass-diffusion and their influence on the physical and chemical properties of deposited catalytic reactive sites, specifically metal nanoparticles and acid/base species. This is investigated through the utilisation of porous oxide materials, including hierarchical structures of these, with an aim to manipulate the physicochemical properties of the support and the species deposited, including the spatial location of active sites.
Operando X-ray absorption spectroscopic studies, conducted at national and international X-ray research facilities, enable a detailed understanding of the catalytic active site, which are underpinned by structure-activity correlations. Combining these enables the elucidation of the active species responsible, whilst simultaneously shedding light on undesirable deactivation processes that negatively impact on catalyst on-stream lifetime. This insight is invaluable and feeds back into future catalyst design strategies to enable more effective nano-engineering of catalytic materials.