Chemical reactions on surfaces for applications in catalysis, gas sensing, adsorption-assisted desalination and Li-ion batteries: opportunities and challenges for surface science
The study of chemical processes on solid surfaces is a powerful tool to discover novel physicochemical concepts with direct implications for processes based on chemical reactions at surfaces, largely exploited by industry. Recent upgrades of experimental tools and computational capabilities, as well as the advent of two-dimensional materials, have opened new opportunities and challenges for surface science. In this Perspective, we highlight recent advances in application fields strictly connected to novel concepts emerging in surface science. Specifically, we show for selected case-study examples that surface oxidation can be unexpectedly beneficial for improving the efficiency in electrocatalysis (the hydrogen evolution reaction and oxygen evolution reaction) and photocatalysis, as well as in gas sensing. Moreover, we discuss the adsorption-assisted mechanism in membrane distillation for seawater desalination, as well as the use of surface-science tools in the study of Li-ion batteries. In all these applications, surface-science methodologies (both experimental and theoretical) have unveiled new physicochemical processes, whose efficiency can be further tuned by controlling surface phenomena, thus paving the way for a new era for the investigation of surfaces and interfaces of nanomaterials. In addition, we discuss the role of surface scientists in contemporary condensed matter physics, taking as case-study examples specific controversial debates concerning unexpected phenomena emerging in nanosheets of layered materials, solved by adopting a surface-science approach.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Festschrift for Peter Toennies - New Horizons in the Dynamics of Molecules: from Gases to Surfaces