Sustainable photocatalysis using plasmons and 2D materials (SusPhuP2M)

This focus group involves Hans Fischer Senior Fellows Profs. Naomi Halas and Peter Nordlander (Rice University, Houston, USA), their hosts Profs. Jonathan Finley (TUM) and Stefan Maier (LMU), as well as local collaborating groups Prof. Ian Sharp (TUM) and Emiliano Cortes (LMU).

The synthesis of chemicals is crucial for society.  However, the amount of energy required by the chemical industry amounts to several percent of the world’s overall energy consumption.  To substantially lower these energy demands requires radical new approaches to energizing and catalyzing chemical reactions. Recent research by the Rice team has introduced a new paradigm for the efficient capture and conversion of light to chemical energy, via the antenna-reactor concept. Here the enormous light harvesting abilities of plasmonic antennas are exploited to focus light into nearby reactors, transforming both antenna and reactor into a highly efficient photocatalyst complex.  In this project we will explore the full parameter space in terms of materials for antenna-reactor complexes, from plasmonic and dielectric materials as antennas to nanostructured 2D materials as reactors. The latter have great potential for energy conversion due to their high surface-volume ratio, possibility of incorporation of defects, molecular capture capabilities, as well optoelectronic tuning.

Our goal is to determine the optimum combinations of materials for efficient light capture and energy conversion for selected chemical reactions via a comprehensive work programme involving theoretical and numerical modelling of light capture, charge generation and transfer as well as reaction kinetics, nanofabrication of hybrid antenna-reactor complexes, and fundamental studies of their response using single particle ultrafast spectroscopy and super-resolution microscopy.