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

01/11/2020 - 31/10/2024

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. My project therefore focuses on the development of the nitrogen reduction reaction (NRR) under ambient conditions, as it is more energy efficient and produces no greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately, current catalysts for this process have very low activities and selectivities. My research will focus on the design of a new state-of-the-art catalyst: iron-gold core-shell nanoparticles on nitrogen-doped ordered mesoporous carbon (NOMC) supports.

Both iron and gold have shown great promise for NRR, but we believe that combining both elements into 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.