Copper is –as weird as that might sound– the only pure metal that has a high catalytic activity for electrochemical conversion of CO or CO₂ to a variety of energy-rich products – all important reactions in our plans for a future with sustainable energy.
Despite years of heavy research, it is still not known what makes Cu so special. If we had this knowledge, we might be able to design much better catalysts.
So far most of the activity of Cu has been attributed to undercoordinated sites, such as atomic steps on the surface. This, however, has been difficult to prove.
Your task in this experimental project will be to locate the “active sites” on the Cu surface, i.e. where these reactions happen. To this end, you will put atomically thin lines of inert atoms onto the different step edges and test the modified surface under reaction conditions (see image above for an example of such lines). If you manage to selectively “kill” the active sites, conversion will stop and you have solved the puzzle :-)
In order to deposit the atom-lines and to determine whether they really sit at the intended step edges, you will use a variety of surface science techniques like scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and under-potential deposition (UPD). You will, of course, also be trained to perform the conversion measurements in our EC lab.
Your project is part of the recently started “VILLUM Center for the Science for Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals” at DTU Physics – so come join us !
Sounds interesting -- or looking for a similar project? Then come talk to me!
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