Relation between catalytic activity and surface structure

Domain topic

Nano Physics



A technical catalyst is a complex multicomponent system and the detailed atomistic processes responsible for its function are, except for a few cases, poorly known. This issue is present as catalysts generally operate at atmospheric or higher pressures and at high temperatures, restricting the number of methods that can be used for in-situ monitoring of atomistic processes. An additional complexity arises as the catalytically active phase, in many cases, only is stable under reaction conditions and may vary with gas composition. As the atomic structure determines a material’s properties, the lack of such information presently hinders efficient formulations of new catalysts. In fact, catalysts in use have almost exclusively been developed by trial-and- error approaches. For a more rational development of catalysts with enhanced activity and selectivity, the identification of the active phase is crucial. Because of the vast amount of chemicals that are produced by catalytic processes, even small improvements on catalyst performance results in large savings of raw materials, energy, pollution and factory space.

Project Description

The aim of this project is to establish the relation between atomic-scale surface structure and catalytic activity for different catalytic reactions. Using a unique combination of synchrotron based in-situ techniques, as well as in-house setups, we will investigate the structure, morphology and activity of model catalysts under realistic working conditions. Furthermore, the project will include development of in-situ methods for MAX IV and the Swedish beamline at PETRA III, Hamburg, especially surface X-ray diffraction using 2D detectors. The gained knowledge will enable a rational optimization of materials for future catalysts.

Methodological keywords

High throughput data analysis, machine learning pattern recognition, automatized experimental control, interferometric sample positioning