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Rational development of inexpensive and scalable electrocatalysts

Carlsberg Foundation Young Researcher Fellowships

What

The goals of this project is to develop scalable and noble-metal free carbon-based materials for sustainable catalysis using electricity as the driving force of the reactions. Novel heterogeneous catalysts for electrochemical CO2 reduction and water splitting will be developed, and focus will be on scalable porous catalysts consisting of Earth-abundant elements. The electrocatalysts will be developed through rational materials design by correlating the catalyst performance with its structure. Hence, advanced structural characterization will shed light on the nature of the active center in the structurally complex bulk catalysts: Both the formation of the catalysts and the structure of the operating catalysts will be investigated by X-ray total scattering and X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

Why

The project is contributing to the development of novel sustainable technologies for CO2 reduction and water splitting using electricity as energy input. Carbon-based catalysts is currently attracting large focus. However, such materials are often amorphous, and bulk structural characterization is challenging. Limited structural knowledge makes comparison of different compounds challenging and sometimes even impossible. Systematic atomic-level structural studies and investigations of the electrocatalytic performance is essential for tailored development of novel complex catalysts. By uncovering the structure of the active centers, the project is expected to lead to completely new discoveries in the field of carbon-based catalysts.

How

The class of materials in focus will be metal-organic compounds, which will be chemically and thermally modified to achieve materials with large surface area, improved electrical conductivity and a controlled metal distribution in the material (e.g. as single site or as nanoparticles). The compounds will be investigated by systematic in situ structural studies as a function of the chemical modification in combination with ex situ electrochemical studies of materials synthesized under the same conditions. Thereby, the structure-property relationship will be elucidated of structurally complex materials. Synthesis and electrochemical studies will be performed in-house, while the in situ structural studies will be performed at external synchrotron facilities.

SSR

We are currently facing climate changes as a consequence of anthropogenic CO2 emisssion, and the global consumption of fossil fuels is constantly increasing. Development of novel technologies (e.g. energy- and production technologies) is crucial to address these issues. The current research project focuses on sustainable catalyst development for CO2 reduction and water splitting using inexpensive materials and electricity to drive the reactions. As electricity may be produced by e.g. wind turbines, the proposal addresses UN sustainable development goals #12 “Responsible consumption and production” and #13 “Climate Action”. A successful outcome may ultimately lead to upscaled technologies.