Clemson University

Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Spring 2020 Seminar Series

Single-Site Catalysts for Efficient Fuel Gas Processing and Clean Transportation

Dr. Ming Yang

Senior Researcher, Chemical and Materials Systems Laboratory

General Motors (GM) Global Research and Development


Heterogeneous catalysis is a key enabler in identifying and navigating sustainable energy flow through our fragile ecosystem. The exploration of cost-effective supported metal catalysts to produce sustainable energy and value-added chemicals is at the heart of both fundamental and industrial catalysis research. To allow such a large family of materials to match the elegant and promising chemistry of their corresponding homogeneous catalytic prototypes, perhaps the ultimate design goal of supported metal catalysts is to simultaneously maximize the dispersion of catalytic metals and to display desired intrinsic chemistry per supported metal atom. Working towards this objective presents both daunting tasks and new opportunities.

     The emerging topical research area of single-site catalysis is a subset of such efforts.  I have been fortunate to participate in the journey of the birth, debate, expansion, and evolution of the single-atom catalysis concept. In this talk, I plan to share several of my research stories along this journey. In the first example, we unified the once elusive fact that similarly structured single-atom Pt1- and Au1-OH species are the true catalytic centers for the low-temperature water-gas shift reaction on a variety of support oxides, and thus broadened the material choices of making high-performance single-atom catalysts. To promote sustainable chemistry in both catalyst synthesis and catalytic reaction, we then invented a facile and green synthesis route for single-atom gold oxo-clusters to catalyze a methanol self-coupling reaction in selectively making methyl formate and hydrogen. The gold catalytic center can be in either supported or unsupported forms, and thus bridged the gap between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis of the mononuclear gold-oxo species. In another recent effort, we tackled the limitation of lacking neighboring metal atoms and their associated activity in the classic single-atom Pt1 catalyst system by creating paired Pt-O-Pt ensembles. The paired catalytic structure retains 100 % platinum utilization efficiency, but it is up to 1000 times more active than the classic Pt1 for emission control reactions. The finding added the possibility of utilizing single-atom material platforms as build blocks to unlock new catalytic pathways.

   The scientific implications associated with above research efforts are of positive impacts for efficient fuel gas processing and clean transportation. More importantly, such knowledge has created a technical foundation of assembling new catalytic centers with atomic precision but even higher levels of complexity to face future energy and environmental challenges. 

Ming Yang is a senior researcher in the Chemical and Materials Systems Laboratory at General Motors (GM) Global Research and Development.  He received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University in 2016 working with Prof. Maria Flytzani-Stephanopoulos.  Ming holds B.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering from Tianjin University and in Chemistry from Nankai University, respectively. In his current role at GM, Ming mentors visiting students in fundamental catalysis and interfacial chemistry research subjects, and he also collaborates with manufacturing engineers and start-up companies to commercialize catalyst technologies developed from his fundamental science studies. Outside of the company, Ming represents GM as a catalyst technical lead in the U.S. DRIVE partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy, universities, national laboratories. Ming is the serving president of the Michigan Catalysis Society, where he takes initiatives to advocate emerging catalysis research domains, to more inclusively recognize outstanding achievements of early-career professors, women scientists, and industrial researchers, and help students to identify their career interests and role models.

Tuesday, January 14 at 11:00am to 12:00pm

Earle Hall, 100
206 S. Palmetto Blvd., Clemson, SC 29634

Event Type



College of Engineering, Computing and Applied Sciences, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Research Seminars

Target Audience

All Audiences

Contact Name:

Diana Stamey

Contact Phone:


Contact Email:


Recent Activity