Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Faculty


Dr. Thabiso KuneneAssistant Professor,Chemistry and Biochemistry

Location: Turner Hall 325m

Phone: (757)-727-5837


Expertise: (1). Electroanalytical Chemistry, (2). Electrochemical Atomic Layer Deposition, (3). Vapor Phase Synthesis and Atomic Layer Deposition



  • Postdoctoral Appointee, Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL, 2021 – 2022
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Inorganic Chemistry), University of Delaware, Newark, DE, 2021
  • Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry (Biochemistry), Colby College, Waterville, ME, 2015


Research Interests

  • Intersection of molecular, materials and surface chemistry aimed at improving our understanding of functional materials with applications in catalysis.
  • Electrocatalysis, Electrochemistry, Chemistry of Materials, CO2 Conversion, Vapor Phase Synthesis.


Current Research Projects

Metal oxide catalysts for CO2 conversion usually comprise of nanocrystalline materials in which the catalytically active sites are few and often undetectable i.e., grain boundaries and defect sites. Consequently, these materials are not amenable to atomic level understanding of electrocatalytic CO2 conversion. Therefore, our main research goal is to prepare rationally designed, supported (Iron, Fe) metal-oxo/hydroxo and metal-sulfoxo single-site and nanocluster catalysts for operando structure-activity relationships studies in catalytic CO2 conversion and CH4 oxidation. We draw lessons and analogies from traditional organometallic chemistry to inform approaches to understanding and tuning the coordination chemistry of heterogeneous single-site iron-based catalysts supported on polymers and other metal oxides. Our research is informed by vibrational and optical spectroscopic techniques as well as electroanalytical and computational chemistry methods relevant to structure and reaction mechanism elucidation.


Our research addresses three key challenges:

  • Insights into the structural stability, precision and evolution of catalytically active clusters.
  • Understanding the phenomena underpinning the interaction of clusters and their support relevant to the geometric and electronic effects around the single-atom (single-site) Fe centers.
  • Systematic design and synthesis of metal oxo, hydroxo and sulfoxo clusters with tunable electronic structure for applications towards CO2 reduction and H2O oxidation.


Professional Memberships:

  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE)
  • Materials Research Society (MRS)

Selected Publications:

  1. Kunene, T., Martinson, A. B. F. Understanding the Unique Optical and Vibrational Signatures of Sequential Infiltration Synthesis Derived Indium Oxyhydroxide Clusters for CO2 Absorption. JVST: A. 2023, 41, 4, 042402
  2. Kunene, T., Atifi, A, Rosenthal, J. Influence of Surface Composition of AgSn Films on the Selectivity and Electrokinetics of CO2 Reduction in the Presence of Protic Organic [DBU–H]+ ACS Appl. Energy Mater. 2021, 4, 12, 13605–13616
  3. Kunene, T., Atifi, A, Rosenthal, J. Selective CO2 Reduction Over Rose’s Metal in the Presence of an Imidazolium Ionic Liquid Electrolyte. ACS Appl. Energy Mater.2020, 3, 5, 4193–4200
  4. Kunene, T., Xiong, L., Rosenthal, J. Solar-powered synthesis of hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and water. 2019, 116 (20), 9693-9695
  5. Wang, Y., Suen, NT., Kunene, T., Stoyko, S., Bobev, S. Synthesis and Structural Characterization of the Zintl Phases Na3Ca3TrPn4, Na3Sr3TrPn4, and Na3Eu3TrPn4 (Tr = Al, Ga, In; Pn = P, As, Sb). Solid State Chem. 2017, 249, 160-168