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Zhang, Sen

Sen Zhang

Primary Appointment


Contact Information

Telephone: (434) 924-1494

Research Interests

Well-defined nanostructured materials with controls at atomic levels for highly efficient energy conversion and chemical transformation.

Research Description

The Zhang group focuses on developing well-defined nanostructured materials with controls at atomic levels for highly efficient energy conversion and chemical transformation. We are interested in a broad range of nanomaterials systems, including single-component nanoparticles (NPs), multi-component heterostructured NPs, self-assembled NPs superlattices, and other complex nanoscale architectures. We take advantage of our synthetic control over those nanomaterials' physical dimensions and structures, to understand and optimize their functions in catalysis, with the overarching objective of addressing our society's most critical challenges: sustainable and green energy future. Major directions include: Controlled Synthesis and Assembly of Well-Defined NPs: We are exploring the critical parameters applied in solution based chemical syntheses to direct NP nucleation and growth, and identifying their mechanisms in bridging atomic species and NPs with precisely controlled size, shape, composition, and crystal structure. We also exploit the inter-particle interactions that lead to the formation of binary and ternary NPs superlattices with unique collective physicochemical properties. This research requires a technical combination of chemical synthesis, in-situ electron microscopic and X-ray structural analysis, and computational modeling, to advance the understanding of NPs hierarchical control at multiple length scales. Nanocatalyst for H2/O2-H2O Electrochemical Energy Conversion: The sustainable use of energy is built on highly efficient and environmentally friendly schemes of energy storage and conversion. Energy conversion and chemical transformation between H2/O2 and H2O is specifically important for future energy applications. H2O can be electrolyzed into H2 and O2 through the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) and oxygen evolution reaction (OER), respectively. This electrochemical water splitting allows stationary electrical energy to be converted and stored in H2 as a clean fuel to power energy devices such as polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) via hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) and oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). We seek to understand the correlation of NP's architecture to the desired catalytic properties, and develop highly active, durable and cost-effective nanoparticle catalysts for these four reactions. Nanocatalyst for CO2-to-fuel and Biomass Conversion: CO2 and biomass offer the sustainable and inexpensive carbon feedstocks for commodity chemicals and fuels, and can reduce or even eliminate our society?s dependence on non-sustainable carbon resources such as petroleum. Their efficient conversion to high-value chemicals and fuels can significantly impact the chemical industry, and advance the development of the carbon-neutral energy cycle. We integrate the efforts in nanomaterials synthesis, structural characterization, catalytic analysis, and computational modeling, to exploit the design rule and optimized approach to electrocatalysts and photocatalysts for CO2 reduction and biomass conversion with high selectivity, activity, and stability.

Selected Publications

He K, Zhang S, Li J, Yu X, Meng Q, Zhu Y, Hu E, Sun K, Yun H, Yang XQ, Zhu Y, Gan H, Mo Y, Stach EA, Murray CB, Su D, Visualizing non-equilibrium lithiation of spinel oxide via in situ transmission electron microscopy., 2016; Nature communications. 7() 11441 PMID: 27157119 | PMCID: PMC4865808

Zhang S, Hao Y, Su D, Doan-Nguyen VV, Wu Y, Li J, Sun S, Murray CB, Monodisperse core/shell Ni/FePt nanoparticles and their conversion to Ni/Pt to catalyze oxygen reduction., 2014; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 136(45) 15921-4 PMID: 25350678 |

Zhang S, Zhang X, Jiang G, Zhu H, Guo S, Su D, Lu G, Sun S, Tuning nanoparticle structure and surface strain for catalysis optimization., 2014; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 136(21) 7734-9 PMID: 24803093 |

Guo S, Zhang S, Su D, Sun S, Seed-mediated synthesis of core/shell FePtM/FePt (M = Pd, Au) nanowires and their electrocatalysis for oxygen reduction reaction., 2013; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 135(37) 13879-84 PMID: 23978233 |

Zhu H, Zhang S, Guo S, Su D, Sun S, Synthetic control of FePtM nanorods (M = Cu, Ni) to enhance the oxygen reduction reaction., 2013; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 135(19) 7130-3 PMID: 23634823 |

Zhang S, Metin ?, Su D, Sun S, Monodisperse AgPd alloy nanoparticles and their superior catalysis for the dehydrogenation of formic acid., 2013; Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English). 52(13) 3681-4 PMID: 23426846 |

Guo S, Zhang S, Sun S, Tuning nanoparticle catalysis for the oxygen reduction reaction., 2013; Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English). 52(33) 8526-44 PMID: 23775769 |

Zhang S, Guo S, Zhu H, Su D, Sun S, Structure-induced enhancement in electrooxidation of trimetallic FePtAu nanoparticles., 2012; Journal of the American Chemical Society. 134(11) 5060-3 PMID: 22380021 |