Unlocking the triple nitrogen bond: increasing the Faradaic efficiency with enhanced electrocatalysts achieved through a combination of high-end electrochemistry and electron microscopy.

November 2020 – October 2024
One of the greatest global challenges is the minimization of greenhouse gas emissions. Finding a more eco-friendly alternative to the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process is one way of tackling this problem. This project therefore focuses on the development of the nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) under ambient conditions since it is more energy efficient. Unfortunately, current catalysts for this process have very low activities and selectivities. Here, we will design a new state-of-the-art catalyst: Fe-Au core-shell NPs on nitrogen-doped ordered mesoporous carbon (NOMC) supports. Both Fe and Au have shown great promise for NRR, but we believe that combining both elements in a core-shell will lead to synergy, in line with observations in other similar reactions. To improve stability as well as activity of the catalyst, the particles will be incorporated into an optimized mesoporous support. By combining advanced electron microscopy with electrochemical testing, links can be established between the 3D structure and the catalytic performance, allowing for a rational optimization of the catalyst. The impacts of the porous support, doping, particle loading, core-shell configuration and the structure of the interfaces on performance will be determined. Degradation mechanisms will also be studied to gain insight into catalyst deactivation and allow for improvement of the long-term stability. This research presents an important step towards making the NRR more industrially viable.