Abstract: Molecular oxygen (O2) is a remarkable molecule that is crucial to life on our planet and plays a central role in natural and artificial energy production. O2 also represents the quintessential “green” chemical for industrial oxidation reactions. Controlling the reactivity of O2 is among the most daunting challenges in chemistry, and it has broad implications for broader society. Prominent long-standing challenges include achieving selective oxidation of organic molecules without overoxidation to CO2 or other undesirable by-products and maximizing the energy efficiency of O2 reduction to water in fuel cells. Solutions to these challenges inevitably require catalysis. This talk will survey key principles of O2 reactivity relevant to chemical synthesis and energy conversion as a foundation for the discussion of specific catalyst systems that overcome key problems in these areas. Specific attention will be given to the issue of “overpotential” and the relevance of this concept beyond electrocatalysis.
Bio: Shannon S. Stahl is the Steenbock Professor of Chemical Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (B.S., 1992), a graduate student at Caltech (PhD, 1997; Prof. John Bercaw), and an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1997–1999; Prof. Stephen Lippard). He began his independent career at UW-Madison in 1999. His research group specializes in catalysis, with an emphasis on aerobic and electrochemical oxidation reactions, with applications to chemical synthesis, biomass conversion, and energy generation and storage. Chemical synthesis efforts primarily target applications to pharmaceutical and fine chemical synthesis, and his industrial collaborations in this domain have been recognized by a US EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award and the ACS Award in Affordable Green Chemistry. He is co-editor, with Dr. Paul L. Alsters (DSM), of Liquid Phase Aerobic Oxidation Catalysis (Wiley-VCH), a book highlighting existing applications and future opportunities for the use of aerobic oxidation in industrial chemical synthesis. In recent years, his group has expanded in several complementary directions, including oxidative processes for lignin and other biomass valorization, electrochemical organic synthesis, molecular and heterogeneous electrocatalysis.