Chemistry at Illinois University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Prashant K. Jain

Assistant Professor of Chemistry,
Affiliate in Department of Physics,
Affiliate of the Beckman Institute

Professor Jain received his B.Tech. from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai, India in 2003 and his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Georgia Tech in 2008. During 2008, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard and from 2009-2011 a Miller Fellow at UC Berkeley. He joined the University of Illinois faculty as an Assistant Professor in Fall 2011. He has affiliations with the Materials Research Lab, the Department of Physics and the Beckman Institute. His research interests are in nano-optics and molecular imaging with the goal of understanding and controlling energy transport, light-matter interactions, and chemical transformations on nanometer length scales.



The theme of the research in the Jain lab hinges on the question: how can we use light to interface better with molecules and nanostructures? The goal is to use light in unique ways to: i) resolve important nanoscale or molecular processes that are not well understood, or, ii) induce novel optoelectronic or photochemical behavior in matter. We are a diverse team with interest and expertise in spectroscopy, materials science, and condensed matter physics. The tools we use include single-molecule spectroscopy, nanofabrication, high-resolution electron microscopy, and plasmonics. The systems we investigate range from artificial photosynthetic systems to nanophotonic switches. Specific research areas include:

Super-Resolution Imaging of Heterogeneous Catalysts. Catalytic processes, despite their importance in the chemical industry as well as in solar-to-fuel conversion, remain poorly understood. This is primarily because of the involvement of surfaces that are often chemically complex and heterogeneous. In most cases, the identity of the active site is still in question. Our lab  is using single-molecule super-resolution imaging techniques borrowed from the the biophysics community, and high-resolution electron microscopy, to resolve individual active sites on a catalyst surface. By mapping the distribution, structural composition, and heterogeneity of active sites, we seek to enhance understanding of catalytic materials and processes. Particular focus is on catalysts for water-splitting and CO2 to methanol conversion. 

Light-Matter Interactions in the Near Field. The interaction of light with matter is primarily entailed by the excitation of electronic and vibrational modes by the electromagnetic field of light. The characteristic length scale of such excitations is typically on the molecular size scale (ca. 1 Å), whereas the characteristic length scale of the electromagnetic field can be defined for a plane wave by its wavelength (ca. 5000 Å for visible light). This disparity in length scales between a molecule and the electromagnetic field limits light-matter interactions to common dipole-type processes. By employing strong optical resonances of metal nanostructures to 'squeeze' electromagnetic fields down to the nanoscale (10 Å), our lab  seeks to bridge the gap between light and molecular excitations and uncover novel photochemistry and photophysical behavior in quantum dots, metalloproteins, chiral molecules, photovoltaic, and photosynthetic systems.

Imaging Phase Transitions in Single Nanocrystals. Phase transitions in solid-state materials often involve interesting dynamics. Since macroscopic solids are typically polycrystalline, such dynamics is smeared out in studies on bulk solids, due to ensemble averaging over different crystalline domains. By acquiring snapshots of a single nanocrystalline domain undergoing a phase transition, our lab is attempting to uncover the dynamic trajectory involved in the nucleation of a new phase. We are developing new optical and spectroscopic methods to acquire snapshots of model phase transitions and also using these techniques to learn new facts about fundamental phenomena such as crystal growth, impurity doping, and correlated electron systems.    

Prospective postdocs, students, and collaborators interested in the above research projects are welcome to contact us.


A. Fang, S. L. White, R. A. Masitas, F. P. Zamborini*, P. K. Jain*, “One-to-one correlation between structure and optical response in a heterogeneous distribution of plasmonic constructs,” Journal of Physical Chemistry C, 119, 24086-24094 (2015).

J. G. Smith, J. A. Faucheaux, and P. K. Jain*, “Plasmon resonances for solar energy harvesting: A mechanistic outlook,” Nano Today, 10, 67-80 (2015).

A. L. Routzahn, P. K. Jain*, “Luminescence blinking of a reacting quantum dot,” Nano Letters, 15, 2504-2509 (2015).

A. Fang (co-first), S. L. White (co-first), P. K. Jain*, F. P. Zamborini*, “Regio-selective plasmonic coupling in meta-molecular analogs of benzene derivatives,” Nano Letters, 15, 542-548 (2015).

M. Behl, P. K. Jain*, "Catalytic activation of a solid oxide in electronic contact with Au nanoparticles," Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 54, 992-997 (2015).

P. K. Jain*, "Plasmon-in-a-box: On the physical nature of few-carrier plasmon resonances," Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 5, 3112 (2014).

J. A. Faucheaux, A. L. D. Stanton, P. K. Jain, "Plasmon resonances of semiconductor nanocrystals: Physical principles and new opportunities," Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 5, 976 (2014).

J. G. Smith, Q. Yang, P. K. Jain, "Identification of a critical intermediate in galvanic exchange reactions by single-nanoparticle resolved kinetics," Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 53, 2867 (2014).

J. A. Faucheaux, J. Fu, P. K. Jain, "Unified theoretical framework for realizing diverse regimes of strong coupling between plasmons and electronic transitions," Journal of Physical Chemistry C 118, 2710 (2014).

A. L. Routzahn, P. K. Jain, "Single-nanocrystal reaction trajectories reveal sharp co-operative transitions," Nano Letters, 14, 987 (2014).

P. K. Jain, Gold Nanoparticles in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology: Book Review, Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 53, 1197 (2014)

S. White, J. G. Smith, M. Behl, P. K. Jain, "Co-operativity in nanocrystalline solid-state transformation," Nature Communications, 4, 2933 (2013)

J. A. Faucheaux, P. K. Jain, "Plasmons in photocharged ZnO nanocrystals revealing dynamics of charge carriers," Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 4, 3024 (2013).

P. K. Jain, K. Manthiram, J. H. Engel, S. L. White, J. A. Faucheaux, A. P. Alivisatos, "Doped semiconductor nanocrystals as plasmonic probes of redox chemistry,"Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 52, 13671 (2013).

C. Deeb, X. Zhou, J. Plain, G. Wiederrecht, R. Bachelot, M. J. Russell, and P. K. Jain, “Size-dependence of the plasmonic near-field measured via single-nanoparticle photochemical maging,” Journal of Physical Chemistry C,  117, 10669 (2013).

M. Polking, P. K. Jain, Y. Bekenstein, U. Banin, O. Millo, R. Ramesh, and A. Paul Alivisatos, “Infrared absorption measurements of amorphous and crystalline GeTe nanoparticles: Evidence for surface plasmon resonances in the crystalline phase,” Physical Review Letters, 111, 037401 (2013).

M. Behl, J. Yeom, Q. Lineberry, P. K. Jain, M. A. Shannon, “A regenerable oxide-based hydrogen sulphide adsorbent with nanofibrous morphology,” Nature Nanotechnology, 7, 810 (2012).

A. L. Routzahn,* S. L. White,* L.-K. Fong, P. K. Jain, “Plasmonics with doped quantum dots,” Israel Journal of Chemistry, Invited article in special issue on Nanochemistry, 52, 983, (2012).

J. B. Rivest and P. K. Jain, “Cation exchange on the nanoscale: An emerging technique for new material synthesis, device fabrication, and chemical sensing,” Chemical Society Reviews, 42, 89 (2013)



  • National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2015)
  • School of Chemical Sciences Faculty Teaching Award (2015)
  • Journal of Physical Chemistry C Lectureship (2015)
  • 3M Non-Tenured Faculty Award (2015)
  • American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund Doctoral New Investigator Award (2014)
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students (Spring 2014)
  • Beckman Young Investigator Award (2014)
  • Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship (2014)
  • Golden Jubilee Visiting Fellowship, Institute of Chemical Technology (2013)
  • National Academy of Engineering E21 Innovator
  • DuPont Young Professor Award (2013)
  • US Frontiers of Engineering, National Academy of Engineering (2013)
  • Unilever Award for Outstanding Young Investigator
  • List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by Their Students (Fall 2012)
  • MIT Technology Review TR35
  • IACAT Faculty Fellowship, National Center for Supercomputing Applications
  • Miller Fellowship, University of California at Berkeley
  • Atlanta Area Chemical Physics Award
  • Materials Research Society Gold Award



Photo of Ralph Nuzzo