Department of Chemistry
The design of bimetallic nanoparticles whose surface is composed of a reactive catalytic metal diluted in a less catalytically active metal is a promising route to the generation of highly selective heterogeneous catalysts. In addition, for catalytic transformations that are structure sensitive, the atomic plane exposed at the surface of a metal nanocatalyst can affect the orientation and binding strength of adsorbed reactants, thereby tuning activity and product selectivity. Experimentally modeling the cooperative effects of the minority and majority metals over a range of surface structures under realistic catalytic conditions requires the ability to both (1) reduce small amounts of a minority metal at the nanoparticle surface and (2) generate nanoparticles bound by a particular surface facet. To control particle shape, and consequently surface structure, the Personick Group harnesses the well-established chemistry developed for the synthesis of monometallic gold, silver, and palladium nanoparticles with well-defined surface facets. Using this foundation in combination with a range of techniques for bimetallic nanostructure synthesis under development in the research group—including sequential co-reduction, halide-assisted metal ion reduction, and plasmon-assisted metal ion reduction—researchers are able to generate a library of systematically tuned materials. Materials from this library have been used to test computational predictions, showing high activity in the selective oxygen-assisted coupling of alcohols, and are currently being employed to explore the structure sensitivity of selective hydrogenation reactions.
Michelle Personick is an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She received her BA from Middlebury College in 2009, where she was an undergraduate researcher with Prof. Sunhee Choi. In 2013, Michelle obtained a PhD from Northwestern University under the supervision of Prof. Chad A. Mirkin. From 2013 to 2015, she was a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, working with Prof. Cynthia M. Friend and co-advised by Prof. Robert J. Madix. She joined the faculty at Wesleyan in 2015, and her research group focuses on developing tailored metal nanomaterials to enable fundamental research toward improved catalysts for resource-efficient chemical synthesis and the clean production of energy. Michelle is a recipient of the Victor K. LaMer Award from the ACS Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry and the Army Research Office Young Investigator Award.