Q&A with Baran Eren

Meet the Zuckerman Faculty Scholar Baran Eren at Weizmann Institute of Science, studying “Surface Physics and Interface Chemistry

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I hope to develop a better understanding of the atomic and chemical structure of copper-based catalysts for the ‘methanol economy’ that could lead to a cleaner and greener future energy solutions.”

Dr. Baran Eren is a member of the Faculty of Chemistry at the Weizmann Institute of Science. His Surface Physics and Interface Chemistry Lab focuses on understanding the atomic, chemical, and electronic structure of solid surfaces that are relevant to industrially and environmentally important fields such as heterogeneous catalysis, electrochemistry, semiconductor technologies, corrosion, and lubrication. Unlike classical surface science, the laboratory performs surface-sensitive spectroscopy and atomically resolved microscopy measurements in the presence of reactant gases or liquids, while avoiding significant sacrifices in terms of measurement resolution and accuracy. 

Please describe your current research, the focus of your lab, and the practical implications of your research

We perform experimental, basic research on physical properties and chemical processes at the solid/liquid and solid/gas interfaces. In our current research we try to understand the ways in which a dense phase of molecules interacting with one another and with a solid surface. We are especially interested in the interaction of small molecules (water, hydrogen, oxygen, alcohols, carbon monoxide and dioxide) with model catalyst, electrode, and semiconductor surfaces. These include transition metals, metal oxides, carbon materials, and other exotic materials. We develop and use a variety of techniques that are specially adapted for our purposes, and try to understand on the molecular level what is happening in the presence of gases or liquids. Such studies are relevant for catalytic conversion used in chemical industries, energy harvesting and storage, and mitigation of harmful pollutants.

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What do you enjoy most about your research?

I am enjoying the ability to pursue independent research at the Weizmann Institute in a supportive environment, especially for young scientists like me who may go about their research outside of the mainstream.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Zuckerman Faculty Scholars Program?  

I really enjoy meeting scholars form other fields at Zuckerman events. I find it very interesting to be exposed to other fields of science – it can open up avenues for potential collaboration. I am grateful for the financial support for my lab, which gives me the ability to perform cutting edge experiments. The Zuckerman Program provides valuable connections in the US to help with research.

Where do you hope your research will have the greatest impact? 

Atomic, electronic, and chemical structure of materials change with their environment, that is, with temperature and with the surrounding gases or liquids. Greatest impact of my research will be on understanding the difference in material properties in their ‘clean’ laboratory environment and in ‘real life’ conditions. These real life conditions include ambient air, chemical industries, inside a battery, or even the atmosphere of Mars.

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