Heterogeneous catalysts are present in over 70% of industrial chemical processes. They also play an essential part in developing sustainable technologies for biomass conversion to chemicals and fuels and for environmental mitigation such as in automobile exhaust catalysts, conversion of greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide, and in recycling of waste plastics. To continue to improve and develop novel catalysts for these applications, a better understanding of how catalysts work is required. This knowledge can be nowadays accessed for tailored-made catalytic materials by piecing together information gained from separate sources: surface science spectroscopic techniques, kinetic studies, and computational methods. In particular, identifying active sites, how fast they work (turnover), and making more of them in new catalysts is key for advancing current and yet to be discovered catalysts. However, determining active sites and true reaction intermediate species in heterogeneous catalysis remains a challenge. In this presentation, we will discuss current advances in our group in the use of combined in situ/operando spectroscopy and reaction kinetics (aka spectrokinetics) to assist in the analysis of active sites, reaction intermediates, their kinetic relevance and how this knowledge contributes to better understanding of heterogeneous catalysts.
Dr. Bravo-Suárez received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the Industrial University of Santander (Colombia) in collaboration with Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University under the direction of professor S. Ted Oyama. He worked as a postdoctoral scientist at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan and at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He also held positions as a research associate at CEBC-KU and as a research scientist at Archer Daniels Midland Company. He is currently an associate professor in the Chemical & Petroleum Engineering department at the University of Kansas (KU). He is the recipient of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Postdoctoral Fellowship for Foreign Researchers (2005-2007), ACS-PRF’s Doctoral New Investigator (2017-2019) and NSF’s CAREER (2019-2024) award. His main interests are the development of catalysts for the conversion of abundant renewable and alternative feedstocks to chemicals and fuels by a combination of controlled synthesis of materials, kinetics, and spectroscopic tools. He has 37 publications, over 20 presentations in meetings and congresses, holds 3 patents, and co-edited 1 book and 4 special journal issues in Topics in Catalysis, Catalysts, and Catalysis Today. He is a member of ACS and AIChE and has co-chaired 18 symposia in heterogeneous catalysis for these societies. He is in the editorial board of the open access journal Catalysts and editor-in-chief of its Biomass Catalysis section.