Susannah Scott of the University of California (UC), Santa Barbara, presents "Chemical Approaches to Sustainable Energy Production: A U.S.-China Collaboration in Catalysis." Her presentation was during the PIRE Symposium on Feb. 14, 2011 at NSF, for which principle investigators from nearly three dozen PIRE programs gathered to learn from each other and NSF.
Scientists at UC Santa Barbara and the Dalian Institute for Chemical Physics in China are working to understand how small particles on the surfaces of catalysts are able to speed up important chemical reactions. Stubborn chemical processes, like converting plant materials to ethanol, may become economically feasible when the chemistry of catalysis is better understood. The near goal is to design nano-scale surfaces with predictable chemical catalytic properties. The ultimate goal is to develop a predictive design theory and apply it to key industrial and environmental problems, such as pollution abatement, conversion of methane to liquid fuels, solar energy and industrial chemical production.