Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Ge, Qingfeng


In this dissertation, I present four projects on the fundamental study of the surface configurations and reactivity of the metal oxides using density functional theory computational method. In the first project, we studied the formaldehyde adsorption and diffusion on rutile TiO2 (110) surface. By comparing the adsorption of formaldehyde on stoichiometric and defective TiO2 surfaces under the same condition, we evaluated the effect of surface oxygen vacancy on their interaction with formaldehyde. The project involved close collaboration with Dr. Zhenrong Zhang’s group of Baylor University who studied the formaldehyde chemistry on rutile TiO2(110) surface using a combination of STM and other surface science techniques. In the second project, we compared the surface chemistries of formaldehyde and formic acid on rutile TiO2 and SnO2, two structurally similar but chemically different oxides. We analyzed the oxidation of formaldehyde to formic acid on two oxides and assessed the role of surface oxygen in the oxidation. In the third project, we studied the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) catalyzed by γ-FeOOH (010) under the alkaline condition. The OER process was divided into four elementary steps and the potential energy profiles of these steps on three terminations of the γ-FeOOH (010) surface were mapped out. Based on the computed reaction energies, we determined the most probable OER reaction pathway on each surface termination. We found that partially exposed surface Fe sites were the active sites for the OER process. In the fourth project, we studied the potential of iron oxides (FeOx) and iron-titanium mixed oxides (FeTiOx) as solid oxygen carriers for the chemical looping combustion (CLC) process. As oxygen carriers for CLC, FeOx and FeTiOx in fully oxidized forms went through a series of reduction steps by reacting with the fuel molecules. The reduced oxides were then re-oxidized in an air reactor to restore their oxygen. By studying the surface oxygen vacancy formation and oxygen diffusion, we gained insights into the initial stage of reduction process and activities of FeOx and FeTiOx as well as the effect of Ti on oxygen carrying properties of FeTiOx for CLC.




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