Walter T. Ralston Ph.D

Chemistry - Materials - Surface Science

Welcome to my homepage! I’m an inquisitive scientist, avid experimenter, and focused problem-solver who is passionate about bridging otherwise parallel disciplines to solve difficult problems.

Born and raised in southern California, I obtained my BA from Cornell University (’12) in Chemistry and Mathematics before moving to the University of California, Berkeley to continue my graduate work in physical chemistry. I recently completed my PhD under the direction of Professor Gabor A. Somorjai at UC Berkeley / Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Check out the information below for more details on some of the research projects I have been involved with.

Broadly, my research interests include surface and materials science, x-ray and electron spectroscopies, and in-situ or operando experimental studies.

Fischer-Tropsch Research

The Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is the reaction of carbon monoxide (CO) with hydrogen gas (H2) at high pressures, creating long hydrocarbon chains likes oils, lubricants, and waxes. These long chain hydrocarbon molecules are very useful in producing goods and items we use in our everyday life; currently the major source of these types of molecules is petroleum, accessed by drilling into the ground. My work pertains to understanding the mechanism of the Fischer-Tropsch reaction when cobalt catalysts are used.

Carbon Dioxide Conversion

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses and thus limiting the emissions of this gas into the atmosphere is of much interest. One idea is to capture the CO2 emitted from industrial facilities and use it as a reactant to produce more valuable chemicals. In this way, we will have limited the emissions and obtained a more valuable chemical product. My research is focused on certain reactions which can convert the captured CO2 into fuels like methane (CH4) or methanol (CH3OH).