Faculty Advisor

Pratap Rao

Faculty Advisor

Nikolaos Kazantzis

Faculty Advisor

Ravindra Datta

Faculty Advisor

N. Aaron Deskins

Faculty Advisor

David DiBiasio


"Catalysts are involved at some stage in the manufacture process of virtually all commercially produced chemical product. Among the materials used as catalysts, metal oxides are one of the most used due to their versatility and wide range of physical properties. Identifying the principles of surface to adsorbate charge transfer is key to a better understanding of metal oxide materials as both catalysts and gas sensors. Using density functional theory (DFT), we modeled the adsorption of small molecules over stoichiometric and reduced metal oxide surfaces of group IV metals and quantify the effect of electron transfer upon adsorption. We found that charge transfer only occurs during the adsorption process of an adsorbate more electronegative than the surface. We also found a correlation between the work function of the metal oxide, and the ionic adsorption of the oxygen molecule. Mixed phase rutile/anatase catalysts show increased reactivity compared with the pure phases alone. However, the mechanism causing this effect is not fully understood. Using DFT and the +U correction we calculated the bands offsets between the phases taking into account the effect of the interface. We found rutile to have both higher conduction and valence band offsets than anatase, leading to an accumulation of electrons in the anatase phase accompanied by hole accumulation in the rutile phase. We also probed the electronic structure of our heterostructure and found a gap state caused by electrons localized in undercoordinated Ti atoms which were present within the interfacial region. Interfaces between bulk materials and between exposed surfaces both showed electron trapping at undercoordinated sites. Finally, we studied the effect of the size of gold nanoparticles in the catalytic properties of gold decorated titania surfaces. We found that the adsorption energy of several intermediates reactives in the CO oxidation and water gas shift reaction does not change with the size of the nanoparticles. In conclusion, the factor that affects the reactivity of the system is the density of undercoodinated gold atoms on the interface perimeter."


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





metal oxides, computational chemistry, catalysis