Novel chemical and physical phenomena emerge at surfaces — the "seats of communication" between phases — and these properties are important to a vast range of applications, including catalysis, environmental remediation, deposition and etching for microelectronics fabrication, plasma-processing of materials, battery electrodes, 2D materials and topological insulators and first-wall shielding in fusion devices. New and revolutionary imaging and spectroscopy tools help characterize and investigate surface chemistry and physics at the atomic scale.
Catalysts are used to produce over 80% of all chemical products and fuels, with a total value in the U.S. of over $900 billion per year. Research and development has the promise of transforming the design, sustainability and use of energy in catalytic synthesis and storage. Advances in synthesis and nanotechnology enable unprecedented design and control of materials at the atomic and molecular scale. Catalysis research includes fundamentals and applications in heterogeneous catalysis for hydrocarbon conversion, electrocatalysis for electrolyzers and fuel cell electrodes, photocatalysis for water splitting and CO2 reduction for producing solar fuels, and plasma catalysis for activating unreactive molecules such as methane and carbon dioxide.