Bruce E. Koel

Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
Email Address:
Office Location: 
A311 Engineering Quad

Ph.D., Chemistry, The University of Texas at Austin, 1981

M.S., Chemistry, Emporia State University, 1978

B.S., Chemistry, Emporia State University, 1976

Honors and Awards

  • Eastman Lectureship, Dept. of Chemical Engineering, Univ. of South Carolina, 2016
  • Honorary Professorship, 111 Program, Tongji Univ., Shanghai, P. R. China, 2013-2017
  • EaStCHEM International Visiting Fellowship lecturer, U. of Edinburgh & St. Andrews, Scotland 2008
  • George A. Olah Award in Hydrocarbon or Petroleum Chemistry, Amer. Chem. Soc. (ACS) 2007
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2004
  • University de Paris-Sud, Professeur Invite', Orsay, France, 2001
  • Osaka Nat'l Res. Inst., AIST Guest Researcher Awards, Osaka, Japan, 1999 and 2000
  • Keynote Address, Brazilian Vacuum Society Annual Conf., Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, 2000
  • Fellow of the American Vacuum Society (AVS), 1999
  • Distinguished Alumnus of Emporia State University, 1998
  • Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS), 1996


  • Associated Faculty, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
  • Associated Faculty, Department of Chemistry
  • Associated Faculty, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Associated Faculty, Princeton Environmental Institute
  • Associated Faculty, Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials
  • LTX-b Collaborator, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
  • NSTX Collaborator, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory

Research Interests

“Life at the edge” - Surfaces are where the action is!

Interfacial processes and surface chemistry are at the heart of a wide range of technologies, e.g., those associated with the chemical and petroleum industries, functioning of batteries and fuel cells, production of microelectronic devices, and design and fabrication of sensors and diagnostic devices. In addition, surfaces play key roles in heterogeneous processes in environmental and atmospheric chemistry, and are central to developments in nanoscience and technology by modifying and controlling properties of nanoparticles and electrical contacts.

Our research primarily involves novel materials and processes for sustainable energy applications, with an emphasis on investigating and understanding chemical reactions at surfaces. By discovering novel methods to alter and control surface chemistry and processes, we seek to make advanced materials with novel properties and to develop new processes and catalysts for efficient synthesis of nanomaterials, chemical, and fuels. We often employ the well-defined and controllable conditions of ultrahigh vacuum to obtain fundamental information, which can often be directly compared with theory, and use a wide array of surface-sensitive analytical techniques for materials characterization and an atomic scale view, including high-resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (HR-XPS), low energy ion scattering (LEIS), infrared reflection-absorption spectroscopy (IRAS), temperature programmed desorption (TPD) mass spectroscopy, and scanning tunneling microscopy (STM). Increasingly we are conducting experiments under in situ (practical environments) and operando (during operational measurement) conditions utilizing gas and liquid cells adapted for infrared and Raman spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), ambient pressure photoelectron spectroscopy (APPES), and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS). We operate laboratories and use facilities on campus and at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL).

Currently funded research activities include investigations of: (i) plasma-materials interactions (PMI) for fusion energy systems, and specifically fundamental studies of deuterium retention in solid and liquid metal plasma-facing components (PFCs) for improved plasma performance in the National Spherical Tokamak-Upgrade (NSTX-U) and the erosion, re-deposition, and recycling of lithium PFCs in the Lithium Tokamak Experiment-β (LTX-β); (ii) electrochemistry, electrocatalysis, and photoelectrocatalysis, and specifically investigations of binary transition-metal oxide electrocatalysts for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), surface chemistry and heterogeneous processes in solar-driven pyridine-catalyzed CO2 reduction, and multiscale structural understanding of the LiSi/lithium metal solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) and the effect of additives thereupon; and (iii) heterogeneous catalysis, and specifically the surface chemistry and reactions for bimetallic Au catalysis and plasma-enhanced catalysis for converting CO2 and methane to chemicals and fuels in catalytic plasma reactors.

Publications List: 
  1. “Reversible Structural Evolution of NiCoOxHy During the Oxygen Evolution Reaction and Identification of the Catalytically Active Phase”, Z. Chen, L. Cai, X. Yang, C. Kronawitter, L. Guo, S. Shen, B. E. Koel, ACS Catal., 8, 1238−1247 (2018). DOI:10.1021/acscatal.7b03191
  2. “Orbital-resolved imaging of the adsorbed state of pyridine on a III-V semiconductor identifies atomic sites susceptible to nucleophilic attack”, C. X. Kronawitter,  M. Lessio, P. Zahl, A. B. Muñoz-García, P. Sutter, E. A. Carter, and B. E. Koel, J. Phys. Chem. C, 119, 28917– 28924 (2015). DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b08659
  3.  “Titanium incorporation into hematite photoelectrodes: theoretical considerations and experimental observations”, C. X. Kronawitter, I. Zegkinoglou, S.H. Shen, P. Liao, I. S. Cho, O. Zandi, Y.-S. Liu, K. Lashgari, G. Westin, J.-H. Guo, F. J. Himpsel, E. A. Carter, X. L. Zheng, T. W. Hamann, B. E. Koel, S. S. Mao, and L. Vayssieres, Energy Environ. Sci., 7, 3100-3121 (2014). (Perspective) DOI:10.1039/c4ee01066c
  4. Chapter 9 “Combining Vibrational Spectroscopies with Quantum Chemical Calculations for Molecular-Level Understanding of Reaction Mechanisms on Catalytic Surfaces”, S. G. Podkolzin, G. B. Fitzgerald, B. E. Koel, in ACS Symposium Series, Vol. 1133, Applications of Molecular Modeling to Challenges in Clean Energy, G. B. Fitzgerald and N. Govind, (Eds.), (ACS, 2013), pp. 153-176. DOI:10.1021/bk-2013-1133.ch009
  5. “Iron nanoparticles for environmental clean-up: recent developments and future outlook”, W. Yan, H.-L. Lien, B. E. Koel and W.-X. Zhang, Environ. Sci.: Processes and Impacts, 15, 63-77 (2013).  (Top five most downloaded papers of 2013 in Environ. Sci.: Processes and Impacts) DOI:10.1039/c2em30691c