Catalytic reaction is an integral part of most environmentally friendly, energy- and material-efficient chemical processes. To meet the challenges of continuously changing nature of feedstock and demand, new processes must be developed, and existing processes must be improved. The desired innovation can be assisted greatly by an adequate understanding of catalytic reactions and an ability to design catalytic centers. Our research goal is to search for and develop the underlying chemical and engineering principles governing catalysis, especially regarding activity and product selectivity, and to make use of such knowledge to design novel and efficient catalysts and processes.

Recently, we have elucidated the active phase of the unusually high activity for low temperature carbon monoxide oxidation of a supported gold catalyst. By using a combination of spectroscopic measurements conducted under reaction condition as well as transient conditions, especially during activation of the catalyst, the changes in the catalysts as catalytic activity is developed are identified and quantified. The results illustrate the importance of the details of the chemistry in the preparative steps. Our catalysis synthesis effort is directed towards developing chemical techniques that permit synthesis of catalytic materials with controlled-size cavity and access windows. Using these new techniques, we have synthesized an alumina material in which the surface is consisted of amine- coordinated Al ions that are active in catalyzing aminolysis reaction with high activities. We have also completed the first synthesis of an asymmetric bicyclic siloxane, as well as a spherical net-like siloxane structure with interior functional groups and molecular size selectivity. These structures represent the first step in the total synthesis of a catalyst of controlled locations of functional groups and cavity and access window sizes. The synthetic technique can also be used in fields other than catalysis. We have used the know-how to produce a blood-air exchange component useful in artificial lungs.