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Robert Davis

Earnest Jackson Oglesby Professor

Ph.D. Stanford University (1989)
M.S. Stanford University (1987)
B.S. ChE. Virginia Tech (1985)

Phone: (434) 924-6284

Website: Davis Group Website

Honors and Awards

  • North American Catalysis Society Paul H. Emmett Award in Fundamental Catalysis (2007)
  • Award for Excellence in Teaching from Rodman Scholars Program (2000)
  • NSF Young Investigator Award
  • DuPont Young Professor Award
  • Union Carbide Innovation Recognition Award

Research Interests

We are interested in developing new or improved catalytic materials by studying how the structure of a catalyst affects its performance in a chemical reaction.

Heterogeneous catalysts prepared in our laboratory are often composed of small metal particles supported on an oxide carrier. Since the metal particles expose a significant fraction of their atoms to the surface, the interface between the underlying support and the particle is expected to contribute to the overall rate and selectivity of a catalytic reaction.

A wide variety of analytical techniques are used to examine the metal particles and metal-support interface. These include adsorption of simple gases, temperature programmed desorption, transmission electron microscopy, FT-IR spectroscopy, laser Raman spectroscopy, UV-vis spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. Additionally, x-ray absorption spectroscopy using synchrotron radiation is an important tool for examining catalysts. Analysis of the extended x-ray absorption fine structure (EXAFS) and the x-ray absorption near edge structure (XANES) provides information on the atomic and electronic structure of catalyst components.

Detailed kinetic studies of selected probe reactions are also carried out over catalysts in laboratory microreactors. The combination of physical and chemical methods allows for new relationships between catalyst structure and chemical reactivity to be discovered.

Selected Publications

J. Xie, K. Yin, A. Serov, K. Artyushkova, H.N. Pham, X. Sang, R.R. Unocic, P. Atanassov, A.K. Datye, R.J. Davis, “Selective Aerobic Oxidation of Alcohols over Atomically-dispersed Non-Precious Metal Catalysts,” ChemSusChem 10 (2017) 359-362.

K. Yin, R.J. Davis, S. Mahamulkar, C.W. Jones, P. Agrawal, H. Shibata, A. Malek, “Catalytic Oxidation of Solid Carbon and Carbon Monoxide over Cerium-Zirconium Mixed Oxides,” AIChE J. 63 (2017) 725-738.

D.D. Falcone, J.H. Hack, and R.J. Davis, “Aqueous-Phase Hydrogenation of Saturated and Unsaturated Ketones and Aldehydes over Supported Pt-Re Catalysts,” ChemCatChem 8 (2016) 1074-1083.

Z.D. Young, S. Hanspal, R.J. Davis, “Aldol Condensation of Acetaldehyde over Titania, Hydroxyapatite and Magnesia,” ACS Catal. 6 (2016) 3193-3202.

J. Xie, B. Huang, K. Yin, H.N. Pham, R.R. Unocic, A.K. Datye, R.J. Davis, “Influence of Dioxygen on the Promotional Effect of Bi during Pt-catalyzed Oxidation of 1,6-Hexanediol,” ACS Catal. 6 (2016) 4206-4217.

S. Mahamulkar, K. Yin, P.K. Agrawal, R.J. Davis, C.W. Jones, A. Malek, H. Shibata, “Formation and Oxidation/Gasification of Carbonaceous Deposits: A Review,” Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 55 (2016) 9760-9818.

N. Kaylor, J. Xie, Y.-S. Kim, H.N. Pham, A.K. Datye, Y.-K. Lee, R.J. Davis, “Vapor Phase Deoxygenation of Heptanoic Acid over Silica-Supported Palladium and Palladium-Tin Catalysts,” J. Catal. 344 (2016) 2002-2012.

S. Hanspal, Z.D. Young, H. Shou, and R.J. Davis, “Multi-product steady-state isotopic transient kinetic analysis of the ethanol coupling reaction over hydroxyapatite and magnesia,” ACS Catal. 5 (2015) 1737-1746.

J.A. Lopez-Ruiz, H. Pham, A. Datye, and R.J. Davis, “Reactivity and Stability of Supported Pd Nanoparticles during the Liquid-Phase and Gas-Phase Decarbonylation of Heptanoic Acid” Appl. Catal. A: Gen. 504 (2015) 295-307.

I.M. Hill, S. Hanspal, Z.D. Young, and R.J. Davis, “DRIFTS of Probe Molecules Adsorbed on Magnesia, Zirconia and Hydroxyapatite Catalysts” J. Phys. Chem. C 119 (2015) 9186-9197.

D.D. Falcone, J.H. Hack, A.Yu. Klyushin, A. Knop-Gericke, R. Schlögl, and R.J. Davis, “Evidence for the Bifunctional Nature of Pt-Re Catalysts for Selective Polyol Hydrogenolysis,” ACS Catal. 5 (2015) 5679-5695.

J. Xie, D.D. Falcone and R.J. Davis, “Restructuring of Supported PtSn Bimetallic Catalysts during Aqueous Phase Oxidation of 1,6-Hexanediol,” J. Catal. 332 (2015) 38-50.