Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Bell, Alexis T.
Location University of California, Berkeley
Primary Field Engineering Sciences
Secondary Field Chemistry
 Election Citation
Bell has developed and applied experimental and theoretical methods to understanding catalysts and catalyzed reactions at the molecular level. His insights can be used to improve catalyst activity and selectivity for applications such as air-pollution control and the synthesis of fuels and chemicals.
 Research Interests
The work in my research group focuses on understanding how the activity and selectivity of heterogeneous catalysts are related to their atomic composition and structure. In pursuit of this goal, we have used a broad range of spectroscopic and isotopic tracer techniques, many of which we have adapted for use under actual reaction conditions of high temperature and pressure. Our group has also been active in the development and application of theoretical methods based on quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics for analyzing reaction pathways of complex reaction systems and calculating rate coefficients for elementary reaction steps. Of particular note we have developed novel and highly efficient methods for identifying transition states and for calculating the energetic and dynamics of elementary processes in very large systems. By combining information from experimental and theoretical studies, we have been able to define the factors controlling activity and selectivity for a wide range of catalyzed reactions, including the synthesis of alcohols and hydrocarbons from carbon monoxide and hydrogen, the decomposition and selective reduction of nitric oxides, the dehydrogenation and partial oxidation of alkanes, and the carbonylation of methanol and other oxygen containing compounds. The insights gained from these studies have enabled us to propose means for improving catalyst activity and selectivity in order to achieve higher yields of desired products.

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