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 in Physics and the Beckman Institute on campus. We perform a portion of our experimental work at the Materials Research Lab. Our theoretical work uses facilities of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications and XSEDE.

Selected Papers

Interfacing light to matter at molecular

and nanometer length scales


Image: Ryan McCarron, King's College London

Research Mission

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 unprecedented resolution chemical reactions on surfaces or in nanoparticles and uncover their mechanistic pathways.

iii) We design 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.

Join Us


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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 (jain@illinois.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. 

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 (jain@illinois.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 and we value inclusiveness. In our science, we value quality over quantity.


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Latest News (Click here for archived news)

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.

12.20.18 We noticed an unusual lattice structure in some nanocrystals of copper selenide, a potential solid electrolyte: the copper ions arrange so that vacancy planes lie every 14 Angstroms. These findings are published in the journal Chemistry of Materials link and the new structure is available through the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Center. link Congratulations to Jaeyoung and Daniel for a successful collaboration between high-resolution electron microscopy and electronic structure simulations!


12.04.18  Congratulations to Dinumol Devasia on passing her PhD prelim examination, where she discussed single-nanoparticle-level probing of photocatalysis.

​11.27.18  Prashant listed among 2018 Highly Cited Researchers across all fields by Clarivate Analytics Web of Science. link UIUC News Bureau

10.29.18  Stanley Bram, first year materials chemistry graduate student and Roger Adams fellow joins our group to study artificial photosynthesis. Welcome Stanley!


10.29.18 We are part of a team led by Prof. Renske van der Veen to receive funding for major research instrumentation from NSF. link We are excited to begin in-situ time-resolved mapping of catalysts in action using the newly equipped dynamic TEM at the Materials Research Lab. Francis Alcorn, first year materials chemistry graduate student and Springborn fellow joins our collaborative effort with the van der Veen Lab. Welcome Frank!


10.23.18 Prashant visited the Chemistry department at Texas A&M University where he discussed the lab’s recent work on fixing carbon using plasmonic catalysts.


10.05.18 Congratulations to Dr. Progna Banerjee (PhD in Physics, 2018) who will soon start in a new position as a postdoctoral scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. We are thankful for her contributions, the latest of which, on the sulfidation of small ZnO nanoparticles, will be published in RSC Advances. link


08.11.08 Graduate student Alex Kurzhals was interviewed by C&EN for the story on “How I made my grad school choices”. link


08.17.08 Our lab is one of three to receive the first Chemistry Discovery Fund award. link Thank you to Drs. Ving and May Lee for their support and generosity. This award will help us explore light-driven nitrogen fixation.

08.08.18 Using surface enhanced Raman scattering, we watched the process of CO2 reduction on single nanoparticles of a silver photocatalyst. We managed to capture the critical intermediate in the process and obtain insights into mechanistic pathways for CO2 photoconversion. These results are now published in the journal ACS Nano. link Congratulations to Gayatri and the rest of the team! Prashant discussed this work in an invited talk at the 256th ACS National Meeting in the Symposium on Technical Developments & Applications of Optical Chemical Imaging.


08.02.18 Under visible-light excitation, graphene fragments are woven from ethylene on the surface of a plasmonic Ag catalyst. Our finding is published in Nature Communications link and also highlighted by the Editors. link Congratulations to Xueqiang and the rest of the team!



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