Heterogeneous Catalysis

Heterogeneous catalysis accounts for the largest portion of the portfolio, and for the past eight years (FY 1999 to FY 2007), the program has made substantial progress in its support of the experimental and theoretical fundamental understanding of multiphasic (heterogeneous) catalytic systems, surfaces, and nanoscale structures. Contributions of the portfolio to national energy goals are also discussed where appropriate.


Traditional Heterogeneous Catalysis grants are awarded to individual investigators. These grants have been indispensable in establishing a long-term funding basis for several leading U.S. researchers in the field. The portfolio is highly important to research on energy efficiency and on alternative energy solutions. Pioneering work has been conducted in the areas of short-residence-time reactors; basic and acidic properties of catalysts using various probes and spectroscopic techniques; and aqueous-phase reforming of biomass for energy purposes.


Surface Science grants focus on achieving a better understanding of heterogeneous catalytic surfaces. Since its inception, the Catalysis Science Program has supported U.S. leaders in surface science and is now seeing a second generation of principal investigators, many of whom were graduate and postdoctoral students of the science’s pioneers. During the past decade, the principal investigators in the surface science subarea have made numerous contributions to the mechanistic and structural understanding of catalytic reactions, which continue to advance catalysis of energy processes. Examples of this work include hydrogenation and dehydrogenation, reforming, selective oxidation, heteroatom removal, surface photochemistry and catalysis, structure and dynamics of catalyst surfaces, and bimetallic and alloy systems. The work is the foundation of the grand challenge to “Understand Mechanisms and Dynamics of Catalyzed Transformations,” which is articulated in the recent report Basic Research Needs in Catalysis for Energy workshop.

Research and researchers funded by surface science grants also have contributed substantially to the growth of nanoscience and theory. Historically, much of heterogeneous catalysis and the research supporting it have been at the nanoscale. However, the increased and broader focus on nanoscience at the national level has changed the emphasis in surface science. During the most recent three-year period, approximately one-half of the projects focused primarily on surface reaction mechanisms, and the other half focused more on surface structure.


Nanoscience grants focus on emergent properties at the nanoscale. Funding for these grants began in 2001 as a result of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI). Most of the NNI-funded work concentrates on the synthesis of novel



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