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Nanoscale Catalysts and Photocatalysts

As chemists, the Macdonald group is interested in the synthesis of nanoparticles in order to harness their large surface area for enhanced reactivity and size-dependent light absorption for solar energy applications. 

The group re-explores long ignored materials as nanoparticles, studies their size and shape dependent reactivity and uses their previously un-tapped catalytic potential as electrocatalysts with applications in solar cells and sensors. Unexpectedly enhanced reactivity has been shown for the metal oxides and sulfides, many of whom are considered “poisoned” or inactive at the bulk scale, but highly active when in the nanoscale. 

The second main interest of the group is the study of semiconductor hybrid nanoparticles for solar energy applications. Under illumination, these multi-part nanoparticles undergo charge separation, the basic requirement for light harvesting technologies such as photovoltaics and photocatalysis. The interest in the Macdonald group is to develop syntheses of hybrid nanoparticles in new material combinations and to understand and exploit their growth behaviour to prepare novel and functional structures for photocatalysis.

Vanderbilt University