Research Mission

Our research group is advancing the understanding and control of the light–matter interface. We are housed in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with affiliations with Physics and the Beckman Institute on campus. We perform some of our experimental work at the Materials Research Lab and also are a part of the UC Berkeley-UIUC Energy & Biosciences Institute. Our theoretical work uses facilities of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and XSEDE.

Selected Papers

Join Us

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Interfacing light to matter on the molecular

and nanometer length scales


Image: Ryan McCarron, King's College London

Chemical potential of plasmon excitations

Angew Chem. Int. Ed. 2020 (link)

Plasmonic photosynthesis

Nature Comm. 2019 (link and news)

Twins and superionicity

Nature Comm. 2019 (link)

Watching an order-disorder transition

Nature Comm. 2019 (link)

Multi-electron photoredox plasmonic catalysis

Nature Chem. 2018 (link and news)

Plasmonic catalysis of carbon fixation

Nano Lett. 2018 (linkcover)

Graphene formation in plasmonic catalysis

Nature Comm. 2018 (link)

Watching carbon fixation on a nanoparticle

ACS Nano 2018 (link)

Superionicity on the nanoscale

Nature Comm. 2017 (link & news)

Co-operative transitions in nanocrystals

Nature Comm. 2013 (link & news)

A regenerable sorbent

Nature Nanotech. 2012 (link & news)

Light-matter interactions are central in nature, life, and in technology. There are three aspects of the light–matter interface that we study using spectroscopy, microscopy, and theory:

i) We employ the rich interplay between visible light and metal catalysts for selective formation of energy-dense chemical bonds.

ii) We image with nanoscale spatial resolution chemical reactions on surfaces or nanoparticles and uncover their mechanistic pathways.

iii) We design quantum materials and coax them into exhibiting non-natural optical or optoelectronic phenomena

In summary, we are learning how to control and harness light as a source of energy and as a means to control the attributes and function of advanced materials.


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We are always looking for graduate students from our Chemistry, MatSE or Physics graduate programs to join us. If you are already admitted to one of these programs, please contact Prof. Jain by emailing jain (at) illinois (dot) .edu for openings. For prospective students who have not yet been admitted to a UIUC graduate program, please contact the program of your interest for information about admissions. Students are admitted into a department or a program and not into a group

Currently there are no openings for postdoctoral scholars, but typically candidates with experience in electrochemistry, catalysis, surface science, and optical microscopy may write to Prof. Jain by emailing jain (at) illinois (dot) edu with a CV, one selected representative publication, and a 1-page-or less research statement. Please arrange to have three recommendation letters sent to Prof. Jain.

Our research is at the intersection of chemistry, materials science, and condensed matter physics, areas in which UIUC has programs ranked in the nation's top 5 and has been home to 20 Nobel laureates & discoveries/ inventions such as the LED, MRI, and theory of superconductors. UIUC also houses the world-class Materials Research Laboratory, where we perform a lot of our work.

Our group is diverse in several respects. We value inclusiveness and support and cherish the successes of all of our group members link. In our science, we value quality over quantity. We value people over productivity.


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Latest News (Click here for archived news)

09.15.20 We welcome postdoctoral research scholar Dr. Biswanath Dutta to the group. Biswanath conducted his PhD studies in Chemistry in Steve Suib's group at the University of Connecticut.


09.08.20 In plasmon-excitation-driven photosynthesis on Au nanoparticles, the primary step is the hole-mediated splitting of water, which supplies protons and electrons for carbon dioxide conversion. This mechanistic insight is obtained from measurements of kinetic isotope effects in the reaction. See our latest work published in Angewandte Chemie link  Congratulations to Sungju!


09.02.20  Prashant was featured in the Department Chemistry Diversity Newsletter. link Thanks to Tracy Crane for sharing the story and a big shout out to all our international graduate students for all they contribute to our excellence!

08.17.20 Prashant gave a talk about concepts and controversies in plasmonic catalysis at the virtually held ACS Fall national meeting in the PHTS symposium on 'Spectroscopy for Understanding Catalysis'. Thank you to the organizers, Randy Goldsmith and Josh Vura-Weis.

08.14.20 A simple quirk in the Arrhenius mode can mask photochemical effects as photothermal effects or vice versa in photocatalysis, plasmonic catalysis, or hot electron chemistry. See Prashant’s short commentary in Chemical Science link and further discussion link


08.07.20 Shining light on metal nanoparticles produces a voltage on the nanoparticles. These photo-voltages play a role in catalyzing chemical and electrochemical reactions on the metal nanoparticle surface. Our account on this phenomenon is now published in the Accounts of Chemical Research. link Congratulations to Andrew, who is now an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville.


7.27.20 Jun will be starting as a Professor at Nanjing Tech University later this Fall. Congratulations Jun and thanks for all you have contributed to the lab. We wish you the best as you embark on your independent academic career!


07.27.20 We found that electrochemical ammonia oxidation can be boosted by a photochemical potential generated by the excitation of plasmons in the bimetallic Au@Pt nanoparticle catalyst. These findings will be published in Angewandte Chemie. link Congratulations to Jun and the rest of the team!

07.19.20  Our review of the use of nanoscale optical imaging methods in chemistry is being published in Chemical Society Reviews. link Congratulations to Andrew and Dinu!

07.03.20 Later this summer, Jianxiao will begin her research group and a new position as Professor at the National Center for Nanoscience and Technology in Beijing. Many congratulations to Jianxiao! We wish her the best as she starts this exciting phase of her scientific career.

07.02.20 Group alumnus, Sungju Yu, who is currently a Senior Research Scientist at KIST, will start a new position at Ajou University as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Chemistry and Energy Systems Research. Congratulations Sungju!


06.17.20  Prashant has been selected as a Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists Finalist and Medalist. link Thank you to the Blavatnik Family Foundation and the NY Academy of Sciences!

06.01.20 Chem 444, Physical Chemistry II course on Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics continues to receive good feedback from our Chemistry undergraduates. Prashant was listed among teachers ranked as excellent with outstanding ratings and received for the second semester in a row an ICES score of 5.0 (99%) for his instruction and course effectiveness. Looking forward to teaching the Fall 2020 class!


05.18.20 Prashant has been named the Alumni Scholar Professor of Chemistry. He also received the Campus Distinguished Promotion Award from the Provost's office. link Many thanks to the alumni and donors of the Department of Chemistry and to the many members of our group, past and present, who have contributed to the lab!

05.18.20 We are proud of the many accomplishments of our undergraduate researchers who are in the graduating class of 2020. Roma will begin her PhD studies in Chemistry this Fall at the University of Illinois in Chicago! David has received the ACS Division of Physical Chemistry Undergraduate Award and the Worth H. Rosebush Award! Congratulations to Roma and David! 

05.11.20 Varun is a recipient of the Racheff-Intel Award conferred each year by the MatSE department to the most outstanding graduate researchers. Congratulations Varun!

04.21.20 Can mercury selenide be a host for Majorana fermions and topological quantum computing? Our latest publication in the Journal of Physical Chemistry predicts the existence of spin-protected conduction on certain surface facets of mercury selenide. link Congratulations to Daniel on the publication of these interesting findings!


03.18.20 Undergraduate researcher Maya Chattoraj has received a Campus Honors Program (CHP) research grant to conduct single-molecule-level studies of bimetallic catalysis this summer semester. Many thanks to the CHP and congratulations to Maya!


03.17.20 Dinumol has been selected as a recipient of a TechnipFMC Fellowship for the 2020-2021 academic year. link Thank you to the TechnipFMC educational fund created by Mr. Bert A. Gayman, a mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Illinois and congratulations to Dinumol!

03.17.20 Our article on plasmonic photosynthesis is in the Top 50 Nature Communications chemistry and materials science articles published in 2019. link Read the article here link


02.19.20 Our work on light-driven carbon fixation is featured in a Wired magazine article alongside carbide nanoparticle catalysts developed by the University of Southern California and NREL. link


02.04.20  Varun has passed his MatSE preliminary examination with flying colors and is now on track to complete his PhD dissertation in the coming months! Congratulations to Varun on a job well done!


01.14.20  2020 starts with some remarkable news for two of our group members. Postdoctoral scholar Andrew Wilson has accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the Chemistry Department at the University of Louisville. Recent PhD graduate Daniel Dumett Torres has accepted the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) Fellowship. He will be a Fellow in the Advanced Computing and Simulation office of the Pacific Northwest National lab in Washington D.C. Andrew and Daniel begin the next phase of their career in the summer. Congratulations to both. We are excited to celebrate their achievements and thank them for their valuable contributions to the laboratory!

01.09.20 Our invited review article on the use of plasmonic excitations as redox equivalents in chemical reactions is published in January’s special issue of the MRS Bulletin. link

01.06.20 Prashant listed among teachers ranked as excellent by their students and received an ICES score of 5.0 (99%) for his instruction and course effectiveness of Physical Chemistry II: Statistical Mechanics and Thermodynamics for Chemistry undergraduates.

01.04.20 We start the year by welcoming three Chemistry undergraduate researchers to the Jain lab: Maya Chattoraj, Haobo Wu, and Bladen Lee. We are excited to have you become a part of our group!


12.04.19  Thanks to Prof. Libai Huang and the Physical Chemistry division at Purdue University for hosting Prashant’s visit and seminar on artificial photosynthesis.


11.26.19 How does one think about the chemical potential of light excitations, especially in plasmon-driven chemistry. We provide a simple picture in our latest paper published in Angewandte Chemie. link

11.26.19 Prashant is visiting the Chemical Engineering department at Oklahoma State University, where he will discuss the storage of energy from plasmonic excitations in chemical bonds. Thanks to Prof. Mari Andiappan for hosting!

11.09.19 Prashant is recommended for promotion to Professor of Chemistry (effective 2020).

11.09.19. Under plasmonic excitation the electrochemical hydrogen evolution reaction on a nanostructured gold electrocatalyst is enhanced. In our latest paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C, we describe this effect and its mechanistic origin link Congratulations to Andrew!


10.17.19 The group bids a warm farewell to Sungju Yu, who is set to move to Korea to start an independent position at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology. We thank Sungju for his many contributions to the group!

​10.16.19  Prashant gave a talk on plasmonic photosynthesis at the Electrochemical Society meeting in Atlanta.

10.10.19  See our viewpoint article on “Taking the heat off of plasmonic chemistry” in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C link


10.09.19 Jaeyoung has passed his PhD preliminary exam. Congratulations Jaeyoung!


09.16.19 We welcome Dr. Ankita Das who has joined us as a postdoctoral researcher. Ankita is a photochemist and a laser spectroscopist, who received her PhD from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.


09.10.19 Daniel has successfully defended his PhD dissertation. To top it off, Daniel will also receive this year’s Physical Chemistry Dissertation Award! The group celebrates the accomplishments of to-be-soon Dr. Dumett Torres with his family. pic Congratulations, Daniel!


08.28.19 In our most recent plasmonic photosynthetic scheme, we find it that it is possible to control the selectivity between the hydrogen evolution and hydrocarbon production channels. Our findings appear in ACS Energy Letters. link Congratulations to first author Sungju!

08.25.19 Prashant gave a talk at the ACS Fall 2019 National meeting where he discussed the unusual chemical reactions that we find from single-nanoparticle-level studies to occur on a plasmonic catalyst. Many thanks to Julie Biteen, Emilie Ringe, and Justin Sambur for organizing a stimulating symposium on Optical and Electron Imaging of Reactive Chemical Systems!

08.02.19 Prashant gave a talk on harvesting plasmons in the form of energy-rich C-C and C-H bonds and the ultimate test of plasmonic photocatalysis at the GRC on Plasmonically Powered Processes in Hong Kong link and at the University of Hong Kong.

07.23.19 Prashant will receive the Presidential Early Career Award in Science and Engineering (PECASE), as announced by a White House press release. link Thank you to the National Science Foundation for the nomination.

07.23.19 Cuprous sulfide nanocrystals can be engineered with internal twin boundaries and, as a result, a stable super-ionic phase well below room temperature. These findings, which provide insight into the impact of controllably introduced defects in nanocrystals are published in Nature Communications. link  and featured in a Editors' highlight. link Congratulations to Jianxiao on the publication of her comprehensive studies!

07.13.19 See our new Jain Lab pic from the group picnic at Kickapoo State Park!

06.28.19 A collaborative paper with the Weilin Xu group at Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry describes the fundamental characteristics of a redox reaction determined at the single-molecule level. This paper will appear in the Journal of Physical Chemistry B. link

06.19.19  Prashant gave a plenary lecture at the International Conference on Enhanced Spectroscopies about the lab’s findings from in-situ single-molecule-level surface-enhanced Raman scattering-based probing of a plasmonic catalyst in action. Thanks to François Lagugné-Labarthet of Western University in Ontario for bringing the community together.


05.27.19  Prashant discussed plasmonic multi-electron catalysis, mechanistic aspects of plasmonic catalysis, and plasmonic photosynthesis, in two symposia at the 235th Electrochemical Society Meeting. Thanks to Prof. Nick Wu, Prof. Imahori, and others for the opportunity to participate.


05.22.19  Illinois News Bureau press release features our work: Artificial photosynthesis transforms carbon dioxide into liquefiable fuels. link

05.07.19  Artificial photosynthesis of C1-C3 hydrocarbons becomes possible with a plasmonic Au nanoparticle catalyst and an ionic liquid. Our findings appear in an article in Nature Communications link and are featured in an Editors’ highlight on Energy Materials linkGreat work by Sungju!

05.01.19  Daniel to speak about computational investigations of novel crystal polymorphs and superionic conductors at the Beckman Institute Graduate Seminar Series today. link Dinu, Jianxiao, and Kihyun are off to the 2019 ACS Great Lakes regional meeting to give oral presentations on their work on label-free single-molecule imaging of photocatalytic reactions and structure-property relationships in superionic nanostructures.


04.30.19  With Xiongwu Kang and coworkers, we showed how plasmonic light excitation influences an electrocatalytic methanol oxidation reaction. This work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. link

04.29.19 Eric will be starting graduate school in chemical engineering at UC Berkeley in the Fall. Congratulations, Eric and thanks for your valuable contributions to the lab!

04.23.19. Copper selenide nanowires combine switchable plasmonic properties and super-ionic behavior with micron-scale length scales for ionic and photonic transport. Our development of these one-dimensional building blocks of future devices will be published in the journal Angewandte Chemie. link Congratulations to Kihyun on the publication of his results.

04.19.19  David received a John E. Gieseking Scholarship from the Department of Chemistry, which will enable him to perform research in our group full-time during the summer semester. Congratulations, David!

04.09.19  Prashant will receive the 2019 Beilby Medal and Prize in “recognition of substantial work of exceptional practical significance in applied materials science”. link Thank you to the Royal Society of Chemistry, Institute of Materials, Minerals, and Mining, and the Society of Chemical Industry for this recognition.


04.03.19 Prashant visited the Fitzpatrick Institute of Photonics link at Duke University to talk about the group’s work on plasmonic photosynthesis. Thanks to Prof. Jie Liu and others for the productive discussions.


03.21.19 Prashant has been selected to join the Defense Science Study Group (DSSG) of 2020-21 alongside 18 other science and engineering academics across the United States. The DSSG is a “program of education and study that introduces outstanding science and engineering professors to the United States’ security challenges and encourages them to apply their talents to these issues.” link


03.11.19  In-situ high-resolution electron microscopy gave us an unprecedented look at the spatiotemporal progression of the order-disorder phase transition in a super-ionic conductor. Our findings will be published in the journal Nature Communications. link Congratulations to Jaeyoung and co-authors Daniel and Progna on the publication of their work!


02.22.19 Congratulations to Dinu who has won the J.C. Martin Memorial Student Travel Award from the Department of Chemistry.  Thank you to the J. C. Martin Memorial Student Fund.

01.21.19 Chemistry World feature article 'Forcing reactions with plasmons' by Tim Wogan highlights our work on plasmonic chemistry. link

01.18.19  We welcome Chemistry junior Roma Frances Ripani, who joins us in our study of plasmonic catalysts.

01.14.19 The lab welcomes Dr. Jun Wang, who joins us as a postdoctoral scholar to study electrocatalytic reactions modulated by plasmonic excitations.

01.11.19  Daniel was selected to participate in the 2019 Winter School on Nanomaterials for Energy Storage and Conversion at Tel Aviv University. link

01.01.19 Select lab highlights from 2018: Alumnus Dr. Youngsoo Kim started in his tenure-track position in S. Korea. Progna Banerjee graduated with a PhD in Physics and moved to a postdoc position at LBNL. We discovered that multi-electron reactions are catalyzed by plasmonic excitations. Our papers were cited 2300 times. We became part of the Energy and Biosciences Institute at UC Berkeley and UIUC thanks to two grants from Shell.



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