Dr Paul Donaldson said:
“As society makes the shift towards net zero and sustainability, the development of new catalysts to meet the complex needs of the chemical industry, upon which most manufacturing sectors depend, is critically needed. The use of modern scientific techniques for characterising catalysts and studying their chemistry at the molecular scale crucially underpins this effort. Improvements in the techniques and the development of new techniques can be said to 'catalyse' catalysis science."
At the CLF, Dr Donaldson and his colleagues have brought a sophisticated new infrared spectroscopic technique into catalysis research. Infrared spectroscopy (IR) is very commonly used for studying catalysts, because it is a relatively compact and inexpensive instrument that can measure different catalyst properties in situ (in its original place).
Ultrafast 2D-IR spectroscopy can be used to help a catalysis scientist understand their samples' IR spectrum and get molecular scale information which goes well beyond what can be inferred from a conventional IR spectrum. However, there are problems that so far have prevented the widespread application of 2D-IR to catalysts. Catalysts tend to be opaque and strongly diffuse infrared light, which reduces the accuracy and applicability of 2D-IR to catalysis research.
Dr Donaldson and his team had to circumvent these problems during their research. By taking their understanding of the physics of 2D-IR and tweaking some of the parameters of the laser light used, the team have demonstrated that 2D-IR spectra of thin discs of catalysts can be obtained with instrumentation at Ultra. This work stems from Dr Donaldson's UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and was highlighted on the front cover of the Journal of Chemical Physics (volume 158, issue 11).
Find out more about how they did this by reading the publication.