Energy-selective plasmonic nanoreactors

In this project, we aim to perform CO2 reduction reaction (CO2RR) on plasmonic nanoparticles using light at the single-particle level. We aim to understand the reaction’s mechanistic details, which will ultimately let us control its product distribution.

Plasmonic nanostructures have unique optical properties that render them the ability to concentrate light in sub-nano scale volumes. Molecules interacting with this concentrated light can undergo chemistry which is otherwise inaccessible by traditional thermal catalysis. Extreme light confinement, in addition to driving interesting chemistry at the surface, can also be used to probe molecules using highly sensitive spectroscopic techniques like surface-enhanced Raman scattering.

CO2RR proceeds via different intermediates leading to the formation of multiple products, yielding poor selectivity. My PhD aims to understand the underlying mechanism in plasmonic CO2RR, and control product distribution via promoting/inhibiting the formation of specific intermediates at a single particle level.

Insights from single-particle studies will be then used in photoelectrochemical cells to achieve product selectivity in bulk-scale CO2 reduction. The success of this project will take us a step closer to using CO2 as feedstock for fuels and achieving a circular economy.