Physical and Surface Chemistry. The Utz group studies how molecules react on surfaces. Reactions at the gas-surface interface are highly dynamical events. Large-scale atomic and vibrational motions transform reactants into products on sub-ps and Å scales. The experiments probe ultrafast nuclear motion and energy flow dynamics that underlie heterogeneous catalysis and chemical vapor deposition. The goal is to to better model existing processes and direct the rational design of new catalytic materials and deposition techniques. The experiments use vibrational- and rotational-state selective laser excitation of molecules in a supersonic molecular beam to provide precise control over the energetics and orientation of the gas-phase reagent as it approaches the surface. Reaction probability and product identity is then quantified as a function of the reagent's energetic configuration. These experiments have shown that the vibrational state of the incident molecule can have a profound effect on reaction probability, and suggest that energy redisribution within the reaction complex is not complete prior to reaction and that the competing kinetics of energy redistribution and reaction might be manipulated to control the outcome of a reaction. This has been subsequently confirmed by exerting bond-elective control over a heterogeneously catalyzed reaction.
- PhD Chemistry, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, United States, 1991
- BS Chemistry, Bradley University, Peoria, United States, 1983