Research Mission
Our group is centered around the design of “reactive microenvironments” for improved heterogeneous catalysis. By exploiting structure, surface, and substrate effects, we work to control the region surrounding the active site to enable tunable activity and selectivity. In parallel, we investigate catalytic promotion by controlling species at catalytic interfaces and designing and synthesizing nanostructured materials. We also investigate the catalytic valorization of complex, sustainable feedstocks. Studying both well-defined models and industrially-relevant substrates, we employ a combination of kinetic measurements, synthetic tools, and reaction engineering, to probe relationships between catalyst structure and function and identify improved routes towards sustainable chemical and materials production.
RESEARCH | Overview | Projects 
Promotion via Control of Interfacial Character
Traditional noble-metal catalysis is often hindered by the scaling relations between elemental binding energies, limiting activity. Our group studies techniques using alternative 'handles,' broadly controlling the catalyst surface character, to improve reactivity beyond these limits. These approaches make use of thorough kinetic understanding and material-synthetic expertise in tandem. Current strategies use electrical polarization to manipulate surface populations (EPOC), structured zeolite pores to manipulate solvent structure at the surface, and the use of promoter compounds to manipulate site states in metathesis.
  • Electrical Promotion of Catalysis
  • Catalytic Promotion via Controlled Solvation
Nanostructured Catalyst Materials
Advanced catalysts require high activity as well as selectivity. Structures with a high degree of tunability allow for precise control of reactivity and the potential to disentangle geometric from electronic or chemical effects. Our group is skilled in the production and characterization of  both designer zeolite materials and core-shell nanoparticles. In addition to studies refining these syntheses, we apply our nanostructured materials to a variety of reactions, such as methane oxidation, alkene metathesis, ORR, and aldol condensation. The performance of the materials in these key reactions informs fundamental conclusions on structure-reactivity relationships. 
  • Microporous Materials
  • Core-Shell Nanoparticle Electrocatalysts
  • Alkene Metathesis
Complex, Sustainable Feedstocks
Significant quantities of valuable chemicals are widely available in underutilized, 'recalcitrant' feedstocks such as lignin or polyolefin waste. These sources are challenging to use due to their inherent physical properties, strong chemical linkages, and the complex interplay of multi-species reactions. Our group approaches this challenge from several perspectives; we employ detailed kinetic studies on relevant model compounds, production-style analysis of real feedstock and reactor performance, and modeling efforts to demystify complex reaction pathways. 
  • Lignin Valorization
  • Catalytic Plastics Upcycling

© 2011-2020 Román Research Group

Last modified: 08.06.2020

Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Department of Chemical Engineering
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 66-558 | Cambridge, MA 02139 | 617-253-4569