David Wei, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Chemistry

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

2019 Awardee

David Wei’s research primarily focuses on using basic physical chemistry concepts, principles and theories to enhance the fundamental understanding of surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-enhanced photocatalysis, which uses light as a catalyst to accelerate a chemical reaction. SPR has emerged as a powerful tool for studying biomolecular interactions in real time.

“I am interested in developing strategies for harnessing light by chemical systems to do useful things, like generate ‘effective’ electrons or local heating on nanoparticle surfaces in order to promote specific surface chemical reactions,” Wei said.

His research falls into three related categories: 1) plasmonically mediated photocatalytic processes that emphasize solar conversion; 2) photoemission electron microscopy of nanosystems; and 3) plasmonically mediated chemical processes at surfaces and interfaces.

“I believe that using sunlight to facilitate and promote valuable chemical reactions may present as an ideal solution to the challenge of meeting future energy demands,” Wei said.

One of his research aims is to address fundamental questions concerning surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-mediated interfacial electron transfer (ET) and photothermal heating in order to develop new materials and strategies for efficiently converting solar energy to chemical energy.

Wei’s peer-reviewed publications have appeared in some of the most prestigious chemical journals in the world such as Chemical Reviews, Nature Materials, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, Advanced Materials, Advanced Energy Materials and Chemical Science. Notably, the work his lab produced demonstrating the plasmon-driven Au nanoprism synthesis published in 2016 drew extensive attention from the plasmonic community and has been reported by the press in more than 20 instances of scientific media. Wei has also published two book chapters and currently works with Pan Stanford Publishing as an editor on a new book “Plasmonic Photocatalysis: Fundamentals and Applications.”

Recently, Wei was invited to contribute comprehensive reviews for Chemical Reviews and Accounts of Chemical Research. Along with those fundamental studies, he has also demonstrated his capability in the development of intellectual property; Wei has applied for three US patents and is currently working with Prizm Energy on commercializing sunlight harvesting transparent windows.