The electrochemical transformation of small molecules is at the core of energy and environmental chemistry. Reactions of interest to our group include:
1) The electrochemical reduction of CO2 and H2O for the conversion of intermittent energy sources to chemical fuels,
2) The reduction of NO3– salts and other common pollutants for the remediation of agricultural wastewater, and
3) The low-temperature electrochemical conversion of N2 to NH3.
In the McCrory group, our general research approach is to develop enabling technologies that allow for the careful study and control of electrocatalytic processes with an emphasis on kinetic and mechanistic analysis, and to use these approaches to address fundamental challenges in the electrochemical conversion of small molecules by solid-state and molecular catalysts. We use a combination of surface science and electrochemistry to directly observe reactive intermediates in the catalytic pathway in model systems and then use these mechanistic findings to develop new, efficient electrocatalytic materials.
A key component of our research is the synthesis and characterization of solid-state and molecular electrocatalysts. Therefore, our lab uses a variety of synthetic techniques for the preparation of catalytic materials, and a suite of analytical tools for the characterization of inorganic complexes (e.g. NMR, IR spectroscopy, UV-Vis spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography) and solid state materials (e.g. X-ray powder diffraction, electron microscopy, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Auger electron spectroscopy). Electrochemical analysis of catalytic kinetics is a central component of our research program, and so we are well-versed in electroanalytical techniques (e.g. cyclic voltammetry, bulk electrolysis, hydrodynamic techniques, spectroelectrochemistry, electrochemical flow cells) and product separation and identification (e.g. gas chromatography, liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry). Our multi-disciplinary approach allows us to understand the kinetics and mechanisms of energy- and environmentally-relevant catalytic processes, and facilitates the development of new, efficient electrocatalytic systems for energy conversion and environmental remediation.