Michael Trenary


Website: Trenary's Group Page 

Education, Professional Experience, and Honors:
B.S. in Chemistry, University of California at Berkeley, 1978; Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982; Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pittsburgh, 1982-1984;  Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award, 1989; University of Illinois University Scholar Award, 1990; Visiting Scholar, Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, 1994-1995; Guest Professor, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan, 1998; Fellow of the American Vacuum Society, elected 2002; Eminent Visiting Scientist, RIKEN, Wakoshi, Japan, 2004; Special Creativity Award, National Science Foundation, 2004; Teaching Recognition Award, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2008; Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, elected 2009; Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship, 2010; Fellow of the American Chemical Society, elected 2011.

Research Interests:
Our group conducts fundamental studies of the mechanisms of chemical reactions that take place on the surfaces of transition metals. These studies are motivated by a desire to gain a more detailed understanding of the surface chemical reactions that occur in heterogeneous catalysis.  Spectroscopic methods are used to identify important surface intermediates and to measure the kinetics of surface reactions.  The technique of reflection absorption infrared spectroscopy (RAIRS) has proven to be particularly effective in identifying molecules on surfaces and in distinguishing between adsorbates with subtle differences in structure. We have worked to steadily improve the experimental capabilities of RAIRS and to understand various physical phenomena that influence the spectra. With its high resolution, RAIRS is exquisitely sensitive to different surface chemical species and by recording spectra as a function of time the rates at which reactants are transformed into products can be measured. Such spectroscopic and kinetic studies provide new insights into the mechanisms of surface chemical reactions. For example, by using RAIRS to measure the kinetics of NH formation from atomic nitrogen and hydrogen on the Ru(0001) surface, we were able to establish that quantum mechanical tunneling plays an important role in this reaction. The hydrogenation of nitrogen is a key step in the ammonia synthesis reaction, one of the most industrially significant examples of heterogeneous catalysis.

Our spectroscopic studies are often combined with studies of the structure of surfaces with the technique of scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), which can provide atomically-resolved images of surfaces. In addition, through an international collaboration with a Japanese group, we use low temperature STM to study surface chemistry at the single-molecule level. In this collaboration, we observe the properties of individual molecules as they undergo reactions that we have studied at the monolayer level in our UIC laboratories with techniques such as RAIRS. As one example of this approach, we have established the structure of atomic nitrogen on a Pt(111) surface and observed its hydrogenation to NH molecules with both RAIRS and LT-STM. Once an NH-covered Pt(111) surface is formed, the STM tip can then be used to selectively dissociate individual NH molecules, allowing letters to be written on surfaces at the atomic-scale.

Writing with an STM tip: selective dissociation of NH molecules on Pt(111) obtained by UIC student Zhu Liang and published in ACS Nano in 2015.

Selected Publications:

Joel D. Krooswyk, Iradwikanari Waluyo, Michael Trenary, “Spectroscopic Identification of Surface Species during Hydrogenation of Acetylene at Ambient Pressure on Pt(111)”, ACS Catalysis, 5, 4725-4733 (2015). DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.5b00942

Zhu Liang, Hyun Jin Yang, Yousoo Kim, Michael Trenary, “Surface Morphology of Atomic Nitrogen on Pt(111)”,  J. Chem. Phys., 140, 114707 (2014). DOI: 10.1063/1.4868141.

Joel D. Krooswyk, Jun Yin, Amy L. Asunskis, Xiaofeng Hu, Michael Trenary, “Spectroscopic evidence for a CO-O2 complex as a precursor to the low temperature oxidation of CO on the Pt(111) surface”, Chem. Phys. Lett., 593, 204-208 (2014). DOI: 10.1016/j.cplett.2014.01.007

Iradwikanari Waluyo, Yuan Ren, Michael Trenary, “Observation of Tunneling in NH Formation from N and H on Ru(001)”, J. Phys. Chem. Lett. 4, 3779 –3786 (2013). DOI: 10.1021/jz4020585


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Contact Information

Office: 5407A SES, MC 111
Phone: 312-996-0777
Fax: 312-996-0431
Email: mtrenary@uic.edu