New perspectives in photocatalysis and near-surface chemistry: catalysis meets plasmonics

Project: Research council

Project Details


Reducing the energy requirements and steering reactions to desired products in key chemical processes involved in the production of fuels and energy carriers for a net-zero economy and for environmental clean-up are some of the most pressing demands for a future sustainable society. This challenge is intimately linked to efficient use of the most abundant energy source available to us, light. Light also provides us with the means to control reaction pathways, opening in turn further opportunities to define new routes to the next generation of pharmaceuticals. We propose to develop a comprehensive research programme in order to understand, and harness, the application of a unified approach for harvesting light energy and channelling it to achieve required chemical outputs, with reduced generation of unwanted or hazardous by-products, using the extraordinary properties of surface plasmons, charge-density waves excited in metallic nanostructures by light. These excitations enable efficient use of electromagnetic radiation over a broad wavelength range from the ultraviolet to the infrared, while at the same time passing this energy on to energetic charge carriers and lattice oscillations, hence providing an efficient pathway from light to excited electronic states of molecules adsorbed at surfaces as well as to local heat. This combination can induce chemical transformations with lower activation barriers for chemical reactions and open up new paradigms for controlling chemical reactions switchable with light. It is here the research fields of plasmonics and catalysis meet. Our team, consisting of key experts from the UK plasmonics and catalysis communities, will explore new research directions enabled by applying plasmonic advances to catalysis (plasmo-catalysis) in order to achieve impact on technologies which are of enormous importance for a future sustainable society. The combination of superior light harvesting and tuning of reaction dynamics that this new field offers will open up a wealth of new possibilities to tackle key challenges in catalysis. In a unified approach based on fundamental research on plasmo-catalytic nanomaterials and nanostructures, we will develop common design and methodology principles and apply them to chemical reactions important in clean fuel production, environmental monitoring and clean-up, as well as pharmaceuticals manufacture. We will establish new strategies for light-driven chemical reaction pathways amenable to industrial scale-up, while at the same time educating a new set of highly interdisciplinary researchers equipped with a key set of skills needed for the advancement of a future sustainable society.
Effective start/end date16/05/2215/05/28

Collaborative partners

  • University of Bath
  • King's College London (lead)
  • Cardiff University
  • University College London
  • University of Manchester
  • Imperial College London


  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Catalysis and surfaces
  • Catalysis and Applied Catalysis
  • Atomic and molecular physics
  • Light-Matter Interactions


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