Platinum is the electrode material of choice in many energy-related electrochemical devices (fuel cells, electrolysers) because of its superior corrosion resistance (and electrocatalytic activity).
It is, however, scarce and much research tries to find more abundant substitutes for Pt, so we can have enough electrode material for future energy conversion.
An alternative solution could be to make Pt even more
corrosion resistant to make the available Pt last longer. To this end, one
needs to better understand how and at what sites Pt actually corrodes on the atomic scale under the various harsh electrochemical conditions present in real devices.
Your project will be to investigate the corrosion of Pt
single crystal surfaces, i.e. very clean and well-defined model systems with a new unique
setup, we just established in the recently started “VILLUM Center for the
Science for Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals” at DTU Physics.
You will prepare surfaces under very clean
conditions in an ultra-high vacuum chamber. Samples can be transferred back and forth to
an attached electrochemical cell without going through air.
In this cell, corrosion can be performed in a very controlled way. Using scanning tunneling microscopy (STM), you will visualize the surfaces
before and after corrosion to see both how and where on the surface corrosion happens. See above an image from a first test run of the new system, it's working now and you could be the first student to do research on it :
To unravel the detailed corrosion mechanisms and find out, how to make the surface more resistant, you can modify the surfaces, e.g. by adding passivating material at sites you find to be most vulnerable to corrosion. Hopefully, you will find a new way to inhibit corrosion and thus help us, to make better use of the available Pt.
Sounds interesting -- or looking for a similar project? Then come talk to me!
You should like experimental challenges