Close Menu

ChBE Spring Seminar: The Influence of Local Composition, Structure, and Confinement on the Activity and Selectivity of Catalytically Active Sites

Event Date 

February 19, 2018 - 3:15pm to 4:30pm


10 W. 35th Street

IIT Tower 1F6-1

Chicago, IL 60616


Armour College of Engineering and Biological Engineering Department will host a seminar featuring Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at University of California. Alexis T. Bell will present his lecture, The Influence of Local Composition, Structure and Confinement on the Activity and Selectivity of Catalytically Active Sites.


The performance of catalysts is judged on the basis of their activity, selectivity, and stability. Remarkable progress in understanding how these properties are related to catalyst composition and structure at the atomic scale has come through the application of various forms of spectroscopy and more recently through the use of various forms of electron microscopy. More recently, electronic structure calculations have enabled validation of deductions drawn from experimental studies and provided answers to questions that cannot be addressed by experiments. The net result is that many, if not most, modern investigations of catalysis draw upon information from experiments and theory in order to develop a holistic understanding of catalyzed reactions. This talk will illustrate how this approach has been used to develop insights into the factors controlling the ammoxidation of propane to acrylonitrile over bismuth molybdate, the cracking and dehydrogenation of light alkanes, and the electrochemical oxidation of water to oxygen. An important point to be drawn from these studies is that modern theoretical methods can provide answers not accessible solely by experiments, but to do so experimental observations are needed to help define the nature of active sites and their environment.

Short Biography:

Alexis T. Bell received his BS and PhD degrees in chemical engineering from MIT and since 1967 has been a faculty member in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is now the Dow Professor of Sustainable Chemistry. His research is devoted toward developing a molecular-level understanding of how heterogeneous catalysts facilitate chemical reactions involved in the conversion of energy resources to fuels and the synthesis of chemicals with high selectivity. This effort combines a variety of experimental approaches. His research contributions have been recognized by numerous awards and lectureships, and by his elections to the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Prof. Bell has served as Chair of his department from 1981 to 1991, as Dean of the College of Chemistry from 1994-1999, and as interim Chair of his department from 2005 to 2006. He also serves the editor for Catalysis Reviews – Science and Engineering and as an editor of PNAS.