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Robert Davis

Earnest Jackson Oglesby Professor and Interim Chair

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

Phone: (434) 924-6284
Website: Robert Davis

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 Recent Publications

B.N. Zope, D.D. Hibbitts, M. Neurock and R.J. Davis, "Reactivity of the Gold-Water Interface during Selective Oxidation Catalysis," Science 330 (2010), 74-78.

Y. Xi and R.J. Davis, "Glycerol Intercalated Mg-Al Hydrotalcite as a Potential Solid Base Catalyst for Transesterification," Clays and Clay Minerals 58 (2010), 475-485.

O.M. Daniel, A. DeLaRiva, E.L. Kunkes, A.K. Datye, J.A. Dumesic and R.J. Davis, "X-ray Absorption Spectroscopy of Bimetallic PtRe Catalysts for Hydrogenolysis of Glycerol to Propanediols,"ChemCatChem 2 (2010), 1107-1114.

M.R. Gogate and R.J. Davis, "Hydrogenation of CO2 over supported Rh-Fe catalysts," Catal. Commun.11 (2010), 901-906.

Y. Xi and R.J. Davis, "Intercalation of Ethylene Glycol into Yttrium Hydroxide Layered Materials" Inorg. Chem. 49 (2010), 3888-3895.

J.T. Kozlowski, M.T. Aronson and Robert Davis, "Transesterification of tributyrin with methanol over basic Mg:Zr mixed oxide catalysts" Appl. Catal. B: Environ. 96 (2010), 508-515.

S. Jain, K. Venkatasubbaiah, C.W. Jones and R.J. Davis, "Factors Influencing Recyclability of Co(III)-Salen Catalysts in the Hydrolytic Kinetic Resolution of Epichlorohydrin" J. Mol. Cat. A: Chem. 316 (2010), 8-15.