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Prof Mike Bowker  -  BSc PhD CChem FRSC FLSW


Research Interests

  • Catalysis, particularly selective oxidation and photocatalysis, the latter mainly for hydrogen production.
  • Fundamental research into the preparation and characteristics of catalysts used for environmental protection, especially for the removal of pollutants from cars
  • Nanofabrication and nanoengineering
  • Nanofabrication of model catalysts, consisting of nanoparticles anchored to oxide surfaces, and imaging them with scanning tunnelling microscopy
  • Investigation of the atomic-scale structure and reactivity of crystalline surfaces

The work of my group is aimed at gaining an understanding aspects of heterogeneous catalysis. This especially involves aspects of the structure and reactivity of anchored nanoparticles, that is, small metal particles (e.g. Au, Pd, Pt) bound to inorganic surfaces. This is of great importance in relation to the understanding of nanostructures generally, but it is also of practical relevance - for example, we work on iron molybdate catalysts for the selective oxidation of methanol to formaldehyde, and on the production of new fuels (especially hydrogen) using photocatalysis (examples of this work are below). We use a wide range of experimental methods and have recently made significant new investments in equipment. We have the ability to image surfaces and nanoparticles at the atomic scale using scanning tunnelling microscopy (STM) and examples of this type of work are shown below. Members of the group regularly give presentations at scientific meetings in the UK and abroad.

Diagram

(Left) An atomic force microscopy image of an alumina surface which has had a film of gold deposited, and is then nanofabricated by an ion beam. This leaves channels in the surface (centre of the image) and after heating gold is removed form this area but remains  in the unfabricated area outside this (as ~ 100nm sized Au particles). This work was carried out in collaboration with the Manufacturing Engineering Centre at Cardiff University. (Right) Aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microcopy (acSTEM) of an iron molybdate catalytic nanoparticle, and below it a plot of Mo level across the particle, showing Mo enrichment at the surface. Carried out in collaboration with Mervyn Shannon at Superstem, Daresbury, UK.

Diagram

(Left) Atomic resolution image, taken using scanning tunneling microscopy, STM) of an iron oxide crystal surface with small amounts of Mo deposited (the bright areas). (Right) Scheme of the mechanism of the photocatalytic reforming of methanol on gold catalysts used to produce hydrogen in a sustainable manner.