This PIRE renewal award expands support for a pioneering U.S.-China partnership in chemistry, chemical engineering, and materials science, and adds additional Chinese institutions and a new alliance with two German institutions to the project. This multidisciplinary research and education effort focuses on catalytic systems that are technologically important in the development of clean energy and energy conservation. Global energy and environmental challenges require international science and technology cooperation and this project takes advantage of the major roles the U.S. and China play in creating and using energy. This partnership brings together complementary expertise and diverse viewpoints and provides U.S. researchers and students with access to expertise, facilities, and instrumentation not available in the U.S.

The project's research focus is modern heterogeneous catalysis with an emphasis on well-defined nanostructured materials as both catalysts and catalyst supports. Catalysis occurs when a substance, the catalyst, changes the rate of a chemical reaction; heterogeneous catalysis occurs when the catalysts chemical phase (solid, liquid, or gas) differs from that of the reactants. This project?s research will improve our fundamental understanding of catalyst structure, function, and activity. It will also unite nanoscience, catalysis, and photocatalysis approaches to explore phenomena with relevance to energy-related issues such as H2 production, CH4 utilization, biomass conversion and CO2 activation and sequestration. Specific research areas include: quantum dot antenna/photocatalysts for CO2 reduction, selective oxidation of hydrocarbons by supported and doped metal oxides, spontaneous formation of catalytic nanostructures, and nanoscale optical imaging and spectroscopy. The PIRE research team will also explore various types of catalyst supports, including oxide nanowires, mesoporous carbon and silica, as well as new gold and platinum complex catalysts.

U.S. graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will participate in 3-6 month research visits to research laboratories in China. They will be trained in Chinese language and culture and will have opportunities to develop project management, communication, and mentoring skills, thus equipping them with the technical, cultural, and language tools to become effective research leaders. A lecture course in technology transfer, and its accompanying Technology Transfer Study Tour to national and multinational companies operating in China, will be expanded, addressing technology transfer in the U.S. and China, and giving students a working knowledge of Chinese industrial research and development (R&D) operations. The project will continue its yearly international workshops that bring together graduate students and postdoctoral researchers with domestic and international senior researchers and industrial leaders to exchange ideas about research directions, with the participation of both Chinese and German research partners. A new enhancement to the workshop will be a half-day seminar on ethics in international science, with a particular focus on how culture influences ethical decision-making.

This project has potential for broad impact well beyond the individual researchers. At the national level, it embeds U.S. individuals and institutions within a research alliance that includes two strategically important countries, China and Germany. It also links U.S. students with collaborating scientists from two U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories. At the institutional level, the funding for increased numbers of graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and research groups will bolster UCSB's catalysis/surface-science community and strengthen UCSB's role as a focal point for an innovative international research network. Industrial R&D is an increasingly globalized endeavor and career target for U.S. Ph.D. students, and this award will enable UCSB to attract more high-quality graduate students by providing access to international expertise, equipment, training, and networking opportunities. This project strengthens UCSB's institutional capacity to engage in international research and education partnerships via multiple mechanisms, including wide dissemination of lessons learned. In the original PIRE award, UCSB and DICP successfully negotiated a ground-breaking Intellectual Property Agreement, removing many barriers to collaboration and providing a template for other universities to cultivate research partnerships in China. The project will continue and expand its campus-wide activities, including a seminar series on U.S. - China socio-economic, policy, and scientific topics, and co-hosting events to promote awareness and interest in Chinese culture. UCSB will pilot the use of its AccessGrid video-conferencing classroom to internationalize PIRE-related courses and research activities, thus broadening the university's internationalization via the cyberinfrastructure. Finally, the project will bring Santa Barbara City College, a two-year college, with its expertise in the ethics of science and technology, into the international network.

U.S. collaborating institutions include: University of California at Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College (CA), as well as U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (WA) and Argonne National Laboratory (IL). Chinese collaborating institutions include: Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics - Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Dalian University of Technology, Xiamen University, Zhejiang University (Hangzhou), University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei), Tsinghua University (Beijing), Suzhou Institute of Nano-tech and Nano-bionics - CAS, and Fudan University (Shanghai). German collaborating institutions include: Max-Planck-Institut für Biophysikalische Chemie (Göttingen) and Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (Berlin).

This project is cofunded by NSF's Office of International Science and Engineering and the Division of Chemistry.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Office of International and Integrative Activities (IIA)
Application #
Program Officer
John Tsapogas
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara
United States
Zip Code