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College of Engineering and Computing

Faculty and Staff

Christopher Williams

Title: Undergraduate Director, Chemical Engineering
College of Engineering and Computing
Phone: 803-777-0143
Fax: 803-777-8265

Swearingen Engineering Center
Room 2C15
301 Main Street
Columbia, SC  29208

Resources: My CV [pdf]
Headshot of Professor Christopher Williams


  • Ph.D., Purdue University, 1997
  • B.S., University of Delaware, 1993

Research Overview

The Williams group research interests are in the area of heterogeneous catalysis and surface science, with a particular focus on studying solid-liquid catalytic interfaces. Catalysis carried out in the liquid-phase is very important for applications such as fine chemicals and pharmaceutical production, and in the production of new fuels from biorenewable resources. Our primary research involves the development and application of in-situ or operando surface vibrational spectroscopic methods to study adsorption and catalysis at solid catalyst surfaces under industrially relevant reaction conditions (i.e., in the liquid phase and/or at high gas pressures and temperatures). Specific techniques under development in our group include surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), attenuated total reflection infrared (ATR-IR) spectroscopy, and sum-frequency spectroscopy (SFS).

The information obtained with these approaches allows us to develop a molecular-level understanding of the catalytic mechanisms that govern the function of heterogeneous catalysts under reaction conditions. Such understanding is critical if we wish to rationally design catalysts for specific applications in the future. Current reaction systems of interest include enantioselective hydrogenation of alpha-ketoesters and alkenoic acids; selective oxidation of alcohols, including especially glycerol, which is the major byproduct in biodiesel production; hydrodeoxygenation of biomass-derived organic acids and acid esters to hydrocarbon fuel; and electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons. Catalysts under investigation involve both polycrystalline transition metals and oxide-supported mono and bimetallic nanoparticle catalysts. The latter materials are prepared either through traditional catalyst synthesis methods or more novel protocols under development (e.g., dendrimer-metal nano composites, electroless deposition) that allow for control of size and composition on the nanoscale. The Williams group is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, and by a variety of industrial sources.

Selected Publications

  • "Gas-Phase, Catalytic Hydrodeoxygenation of Propanoic Acid, Over Supported Group VIII Noble Metals: Metal and Support Effects," Y. K. Lugo-José, J. R. Monnier and C. T. Williams, Appl. Catal. A: Gen. 469, 410 - 418, 2014.
  • "Selective Hydrogenation of Acetylene in Excess Ethylene Using Ag- and Au-Pd/SiO2 Bimetallic Catalysts Prepared by Electroless Deposition," Y. Zhang, W. Diao, C. T. Williams and J. R. Monnier, Appl. Catal. A: Gen., 469, 419 - 426, 2014.
  • "An In Situ Spectroscopic Study of Prochiral Reactant–Chiral Modifier Interactions on Palladium Catalyst: Case of Alkenoic Acid and Cinchonidine in Various Solvents," S. Tan and C. T. Williams, J. Phys. Chem. C 117( 35 ), 18043 – 18052, 2013.
  • "Preparation and Characterization of Dendrimer-Derived Bimetallic Ir-Au/Al2O3 Catalysts for CO Oxidation," Y.-J. Song, Y. M. López de Jesús, P. T. Fanson, and C. T. Williams, J. Phys. Chem. C 117( 21 ), 10999 - 11007, 2013.
  • "In-situ ATR-IR Investigation of Methylcinnamic Acid Adsorption and Hydrogenation on Pd/Al2O3," X. Sun and C. T. Williams, Catal. Commun. 17( 1 ), 13 - 17, 2012.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.