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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 Publications

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.

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 Catalysis 5 (2015) 5679-5695.

J.A. Lopez-Ruiz, H. Pham, A. Datye, 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, R.J. Davis, "DRIFTS of Probe Molecules Adsorbed on Magnesia, Zirconia and Hydroxyapatite Catalysts," J. Phys. Chem. C 119 (2015) 9186-9197.

S. Hanspal, Z.D. Young, H. Shou, and R.J. Davis, "Multiproduct Steady-State Isotopic Transient Kinetic Analysis of the Ethanol Coupling Reaction over Hydroxyapatite and Magnesia," ACS Catalysis 5 (2015) 1737−1746.

J.B. Salazar, D.D. Falcone, H.N. Pham, A.K. Datye, F.B. Passos, and R.J. Davis, "Selective Production of 1,2-Propanediol by Hydrogenolysis of Glycerol over Bimetallic Ru-Cu Nanoparticles Supported on TiO2," Appl. Catal. A: Gen. 482 (2014) 137-144.

M.S. Ide and R.J. Davis, "The Important Role of Hydroxyl on Oxidation Catalysis by Gold Nanoparticles," Acc. Chem. Res. 47 (2014) 825-833.

J.A. Lopez-Ruiz and R.J. Davis, "Decarbonylation of Heptanoic Acid over Carbon-Supported Platinum Nanoparticles," Green Chem. 16 (2014) 683-694.

M.S. Ide, D.D. Falcone and R.J. Davis, "On the Deactivation of Supported Platinum Catalysts for Selective Oxidation of Alcohols," J. Catal. 311 (2014) 295-305.

S.E. Davis, A.D. Benavidez, R. W. Gosselink, J. H. Bitter, K.P. de Jong, A.K. Datye, and R.J. Davis, "Kinetics and Mechanism of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural Oxidation and Their Implications for Catalyst Development," J. Mol. Cat. A: Chem. 388-389 (2014) 123-132.