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Michael Bowker

Professor Michael Bowker

Professor of Surface Science

School of Chemistry

Media commentator


Michael’s research has focused on surface structure/reactivity and catalysis, ranging from theoretical studies of the effect of sintering on product yields, to selective oxidation catalysis on oxide nanomaterials, to studies of adsorption on well-defined surfaces. He has used STM for 20 years to study various aspects of surface structure and reactivity, pioneering the use of high temperature, atomic resolution STM in this field. The group is focusing on environmental aspects of catalysis. Firstly, utilising solar energy to produce hydrogen directly from water splitting, by the use of light-absorbing photocatalysts. Secondly, examining CO2 reduction with solar hydrogen to make methanol, a way of storing solar energy at peak production, to be used when solar supply is low.


Research Group: Cardiff Catalysis Institute






















Book sections



  • Catalysis, particularly photocatalysis, the latter mainly for hydrogen production.
  • CO2 hydrogenation to organics, especially methanol
  • Further conversion/upgrading of organics like methanol by selective oxidation
  • Fundamental research into the preparation and characteristics of catalysts used for environmental protection, especially for the removal of pollutants from cars
  • Nanofabrication of model catalysts, consisting of nanoparticles anchored to oxide surfaces
  • Investigation of the atomic-scale structure and reactivity of crystalline surfaces

The work of my group is aimed at gaining a fundamental understanding of aspects of heterogeneous catalysis, and the application of this understanding to the development of new, more efficient and environmentally-useful catalysts. This especially involves aspects of the structure and reactivity of anchored nanoparticles, that is, small metal particles (e.g. Au, Pd, Cu) bound to inorganic surfaces. This is of great importance in relation to the understanding of nanostructures generally, but it is also of practical relevance - for example, we work on iron molybdate catalysts for the selective oxidation of methanol to formaldehyde, and on the production of new fuels (especially hydrogen) using photocatalysis.

We use a wide range of experimental methods and have recently made significant new investments in equipment. We have the ability to image surfaces and nanoparticles at the atomic scale using Various forms of electron microscopy and synchrotron methods for examining reaction in situ and in operando. Members of the group regularly give presentations at scientific meetings in the UK and abroad.


PhD in Surface Science, University of Liverpool, 1977, supervisor Prof David King

Research Fellow, Dept. Chem. Eng., Stanford University, California, with Prof R.J. Madix 1977-9, working on catalytic reactions on well-defined surfaces.

Senior Research Scientist, ICI Corporate Laboratory, Runcorn, England 1979-87. Working on various aspects of industrial catalysis, using traditional catalytic methods and surface science. Reactions included ethylene epoxidation, ammonia synthesis, methanol synthesis, shift reaction and others.

Founding Assistant Director, Leverhulme Centre for Innovative Catalysis,Dept. Chemistry, University of Liverpool. 1987-93. Developing this centre from foundation. Covering a range of catalytic processes and surface science.

Principal Scientist, IRC in Surface Science, 1988-95. Again, a founding member of this centre, leading a team devoted to the study of adsorption, reactions and structure of well-defined surfaces.

Professor and Head of Physical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Reading, 1993-2003. Responsible for organising Physical Chemistry teaching, researching aspects of surface science and catalysis and developing physical chemistry research in the department.

Professor of Surface Chemistry, School of Chemistry, Cardiff University, 2003. Head of Heterogeneous Catalysis and Surfaces Group. Development of surface science of nano particles. Focus on Selective oxidation catalysis and photocatalysis and hydrogen production/storage. Founder of the Wolfson Nanoscience Laboratory, 2006. Appointed Deputy Director, Cardiff Catalysis Institute in 2009. A founder member of the UK Catalysis Hub, and part of my time is spent at the Research Complex at Harwell, the Rutherford Appleton Lab.