Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Chemical Engineering

Major Professor

Venkat R. Bhethanabotla, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

John N. Kuhn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Babu Joseph, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jing Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Subramanian K.R.S. Sankaranarayanan, Ph.D.


DFT, Perovskite Oxides, Photocatalysis, RWGS-CL, Vacancy Defects


The current energy and environmental scenario in the world demands acute attention on sustainable repurposing of waste CO2 to high value hydrocarbons that not only addresses the CO2 mitigation problem, but also provides pathways for a closed loop synthetic carbon cycle. Difference in the scales of global CO2 emissions (about 40 Gtpa, 2017) and the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) facilities (estimated cumulative 40 Mtpa, 2018) provokes active research on this topic. Solar thermochemical (STC) and visible light photocatalysis are two of the most promising routes that have garnered attention for this purpose. While STC has the advantages of high CO2 conversion rates, it operates at high temperatures (more than 1000 °C) limiting its industrial implementation. Photocatalysis, on the contrary, is plagued by the poor quantum efficiency and conversion rates, although its exhibits the benefits of low temperature operation. Thus, any significant progress towards low temperature STC and visible light photocatalytic CO2 reduction is a giant leap towards a greener and sustainable energy solution. This dissertation is an effort towards improving both the STC and photocatalytic CO2 reduction.

Reverse water gas shift - chemical looping (RWGS-CL) is a modified STC approach that has the potential for low temperature CO2 conversion. RWGS-CL process uses mixed metal oxides like perovskite oxides (ABO3) for the conversion to CO, a potential feedstock for subsequent hydrocarbon production. Generation of oxygen vacancy defects on these perovskite oxides is a key step of RWGS-CL and thus, oxygen vacancy formation energy has been found to be a key descriptor for this process. Using density functional theory based calculations, this intrinsic material property has been used towards rational design of better catalysts. Highest rate of CO2 conversion at the low temperatures of 450 °C was demonstrated by earth abundant perovskite oxide via RWGS-CL. This low temperature and stable CO2 conversion process enables thermal integration with subsequent Fischer Tropsch processes for the hydrogenation of CO to hydrocarbons. Parallel to the developments on materials discovery, another crucial parameter that deserves attention is the surface termination effects of the perovskite oxides. Hence, the site specificity of the bulk and surface oxygen vacancies have been probed in detail towards elucidating the CO2 conversion performance over these materials. In the view of recent progress on the growth of selective crystal facets and terminations, this study opens new avenues for enhanced CO2 conversion performance not only through bulk composition variation, but also via exposing desired crystal facets.

Type-II semiconductor heterojunctions (staggered type) are promising candidates for efficient photocatalytic reactions, not only because of their capabilities of electronic density of states tuning, but also their ability to segregate the excited electrons and holes into different materials thereby restricting exciton recombination. Metal oxynitride heterojunctions have recently demonstrated promising activity on visible light water splitting. Elucidating the structure-function relationships for these materials can pave the way towards designing better CO2 conversion photocatalysts. This dissertation focuses on unravelling the roles of material composition, anion vacancy defects and lattice strain towards modulating the electronic density of states of lateral and vertical heterojunctions of (ZnO)X(AlN)1-X and (ZnO)X(GaN)1-X. The heterojunctions consist of periodic potential wells that allows for restricting interlayer charge transport. Increased ZnO concentration was explicitly shown to decrease the band gap due to N 2p and Zn-3d repulsion. Biaxial and vertical compressive strain effected increased band gap while tensile strain reduced the same. Oxygen vacancies was found to have different effect on the electronic state of the materials. When present in charged state (+2), it promotes mid gap state formation, while in neutral state it revealed increased electronic densities near the valence band and conduction band edges. These fundamental site specific material property tuning insights are essential for designing better photocatalysts for future.