Energy Center

W. Nicholas Delgass

Contact Information

Forney Hall of Chemical Engineering
480 Stadium Mall Drive
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907


The goal of Professor Delgass' research in heterogeneous catalysis is to understand the surface chemical origins of catalytic activity and to use that fundamental knowledge in a process called Discovery Informatics for the design of catalysts. Steady state reaction and transient isotopic tracing provide quantitative chemical kinetic evaluation of catalytic performance, while spectroscopic measurements yield details of the chemistry of catalytic surfaces. X-Ray photoelectron spectroscopy gives a quantitative chemical analysis of catalyst surfaces prepared in situ. Solid state NMR and infrared spectroscopy reveal further details of the chemical state of the surface and the bonding of adsorbed species. Discovery Informatics is a framework that enables management of complexity, accumulation of knowledge, systematic testing of hypotheses by interaction with experiments, and the efficient search for new materials with desired performance characteristics. Six chemical engineering professors at Purdue have teamed together to apply this methodology to catalyst design. The approach uses high throughput experiments and quantum level theory to gain information on catalyst performance and chemistry and then uses a variety of systems tools to guide and execute building models that capture catalytic knowledge and discover new catalysts.

Partial oxidation and acid catalysis by zeolites are catalytic reactions of current interest. The partial oxidation work seeks novel Au-based catalysts for direct oxidation of propylene to propylene oxide and understanding of the promotion of silver catalysts for epoxidation of ethylene and butadiene. The zeolite research is currently aimed at propane aromatization and is the primary focus of the catalyst design work.  

Expertise: Discovery informatics, Heterogeneous catalysis, Transient kinetics, Catalyst design and characterization




B.S., University of Michigan, 1964

M.S., Stanford University, 1966
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1969


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