The reliance on heated catalysts to overcome high activation energies and achieve practical reaction rates in industrial scale catalysis not only requires high thermal energy inputs but also shortens catalyst lifetime. By comparing light and dark conditions on rhodium catalysts in carbon dioxide hydrogenation, the Liu lab, together with Dr. Henry Everitt at the Army Aviation & Missile RD&E Center and Yang group in our department, has shown how the plasmonic behavior of rhodium nanoparticles profoundly improves their already excellent catalytic properties. Under illumination, rhodium nanoparticles simultaneously reduce the activation energy and selectively produce methane, a desired but kinetically unfavored product. In fact, the unheated photocatalytic methane production rate exceeds the thermocatalytic rate at 400oC. Thus, demonstrating that light can be used with plasmonic photocatalysts to drive important chemical reactions efficiently and selectively. Read more on this on Duke Today and in Nature Communications.