Franklin (Feng) Tao

Miller Associate Professor
Primary office:
(785) 864-7273
Room 112, LSRL Building B, 1501 Wakarusa Dr.
Second office:
4156 Learned Hall

Academic Degrees and Previous Employment

  • Ph.D., 2006, Princeton University
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, 2006-2010, University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab
  • Assistant Professor, 2010-2014, University of Notre Dame


  • National Science Foundation Career Award, 2014-2019
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013
  • Paul Holloway Award, American Vacuum Society, 2012
  • Gerhard Ertl (Nobel Laureate 2007) Young Investigator Award (Finalist Prize), 2010
  • Eugene P. Wigner (Nobel Laureate 1963) Fellowship, ORNL, 2010
  • IUPAC Prize for Young Chemists (Dissertation), 2008

Areas of Specialization

Heterogeneous catalysis, nanoscience, materials chemistry, and surface science

Research Interests

Heterogeneous catalysis is crucial for chemical and energy transformation. Our research focuses on the interdisciplinary field of heterogeneous catalysis, nanoscience, materials chemistry, and surface science. We are interested in important catalytic reactions of chemical and energy transformations. The goals of our research projects are to achieve fundamental understanding of important catalytic reactions at molecular level and develop efficient nanocomposite catalytic systems through integration of synthesis, evaluation of catalytic performance, and in-situ and operando characterizations.

We perform in-situ/operando characterization with our laboratory-based ambient pressure photoelectron spectrometer and ambient pressure high temperature scanning tunneling microscope in our group. These studies provide in-situ information of nanocatalysts under a reaction condition or during catalysis.

Our Specific Projects

  • Synthesis and catalysis of shape-controlled early transition metal oxide and mixed transition metal oxide

    In this project, transition metal oxide and mixed oxide are synthesized. Fundamental studies of catalysis in them are performed. For example, Co3O4 nanorods were synthesized. CoO nanorods formed from Co3O4 exits high selective and activity for reduction of NO with CO at relatively low reaction temperature. Mixed oxides such as Co3-xNixO4 were synthesized. They are highly active for complete oxidation of methane.

  • Preparation and catalysis of singly dispersed metal atoms on oxide (single atom catalyst)

    In this project, precious metal atoms such as Pt atoms are anchored on surface of oxide such as Co3O4. They exhibit low activation barrier for reactions including water gas shift.

  • Synthesis and catalysis of singly dispersed bimetallic site catalyst

    In this project, bimetallic sites were prepared through a controlled oxidation and reduction. These sites are singly dispersed on an oxide support. The cationic state of bimetallic sites in these catalysts offers different catalytic performances in contrast to bimetallic sites of a bimetallic nanoparticle.

  • Catalysis and in-situ studies of shape-controlled bimetallic nanoparticle catalyst

    In this project, bimetallic nanoparticles with well controlled shape such as Rh-Pd nanocubes are used as catalysts for evaluation of catalytic performances and in-situ characterization. Correlation between surface structure and catalytic performance is built.

  • Restructuring surface structure of nanoparticle catalyst toward achieving better catalytic performance

    In this project, a gas phase reaction on a bimetallic nanoparticle is performed to restructure the surface to tune its catalytic performance. One example is the restructured Pt-Cu nanocubes exhibit much high catalytic activity for CO oxidation than as-synthesized one.

  • Development of new catalysts for intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cell technology

    In this project, catalysts with high activity in reforming methane at an intermediate temperature are prepared for intermediate temperature solid oxide fuel cell process.

  • Synthesis and in-situ studies of mesoporous metal catalysts

    In this project, Fe-based mesoporous metal catalysts are being developed for important chemical transformations including selective oxidation and hydrogenation. Fundamental understanding of catalysis in this type of materials will be achieved through in-situ studies.

  • Methane conversion on zeolite anchored with transition metal atoms

    In this project, zeolites such as ZSM5 is used to anchor atoms of a transition metal for catalytic conversion of CH4 to methanol and other oxygenates in a liquid phase.

  • Structural evolution of nanoparticle catalysts under reaction conditions or during catalysis

    In this project, structural evolution of metal and oxide nanocatalysts in gas phase of reactant is tracked with in-situ characterization techniques including ambient pressure XPS, ambient pressure STM, environmental TEM, and in-situ EXAFS.

  • Fundamental studies of surface structure and chemistry of metal and oxide model catalysts in gas phase or during catalysis

    In this project, surface structure and chemistry of model catalysts including Rh(110) and Co3O4 thin film are studied with AP-STM and AP-XPS toward building a correlation between surface structure/chemistry and the corresponding catalytic performance for a fundamental understanding of prototype catalytic reactions.

  • Fundamental understanding of surface of photocatalyst and its cocatalysts

    In this project, surface of a photocatalysts and cocatalysts of photocatalytic system active for water spitting is studied by using in-situ surface analytic techniques with a goal of understanding the photocatalytic process from surface science point of view.

  • Instrumentation for tracking surface of metal or oxide at solid-gas and solid-liquid interfaces

    In this project, instrumentation toward tracking surface structure and chemistry of nanocatalysts buried in a gas phase with higher pressure or liquid phase of a reactant is being developed.

Selected publications

  • Zhang, S.; Shan, J.; Zhu, Y.; Frenkel, A. I.; Patlolla, A.; Huang, W.; Yoon, S.; Wang, L.; Yoshida, H.; Takeda, S.; Tao, F.* “WGS Catalysis and In Situ Studies of CoO1-x, PtCon/Co3O4, and PtmCom’/CoO1-x Nanorod Catalysts”, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2013, 135, 8283-8293. DOI: 10.1021/ja401967y
  • Zhang, S.; Shan, J.; Zhu, Y.; Nguyen, L.; Huang, W.; Yoshida, H; Takeda, S.; Tao, F.*, “Restructuring Transition Metal Oxide Nanorods for 100% Selectivity in Reduction of Nitric Oxide with Carbon Monoxide”, Nano Lett., 2013, 13, 3310-3314. DOI: 10.1021/nl4015292
  • Wen, C.; Zhu, Y.; Ye, Y.; Zhang, S.; Cheng, F.; Liu, Y.; Wang, P.; Tao, F.* “Water-Gas Shift Reaction on Metal Nanoclusters Encapsulated in Mesoporous Ceria Studied with Ambient-Pressure X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy”, ACS Nano, 2012, 6, 9305-9313. DOI: 10.1021/nn303901q
  • Tao, F.*; Salmeron, M.* “In Situ Studies of Chemistry and Structure of Materials in Reactive EnvironmentsScience, 2011, 331, 171-174.  DOI: 10.1126/science.1197461
  • Tao, F.; Grass, M. E.; Zhang, Y.; et al. “Reaction-Driven Restructuring of Rh-Pd and Pt-Pd Core-Shell Nanoparticles”, Science, 2008, 322, 932-934 DOI: 10.1126/science.1164170
  • Tao. F.; Dag, S; et al. “Break-up of Stepped Platinum Catalyst Surfaces by High CO Coverage”, Science, 2010, 327, 850-853.DOI: 10.1126/science.1182122

Complete List of Publications
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Chemistry department receives more than $6 million in research grants annually
14 chemistry faculty members have NSF CAREER Awards
Longest-running chemistry Research Experience for Undergraduates in the nation
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