Mechanistic Studies of Carbon Dioxide Reduction (Lead by Prof. K.H. Ernst)
Because all processes in large scale productions must be optimized away from today’s crude-oil based technology, development of new and more effective catalysts must follow. The syngas of the future will be the mixture of CO2 and “solar” hydrogen and not the fossil-based CO/CO2 /H2 mixture that is used today. Many commercially important catalysts are made of metal nanoparticles dispersed on oxide powder. Such catalysts are highly complex materials systems and very difficult to characterize. Sometimes, additives are introduced to support activity or selectivity. This structural complexity allows tuning properties, but the microscopic reason for better performance remains unclear. This makes the optimization a trial and error process that is very ineffective. Researchers have therefore started to study well defined surfaces in order to better understand heterogeneous catalysis (Nobel prize in chemistry 2007). Nowadays, more realistic model systems can be created that still allow application of sophisticated surface science techniques. The primary objective of our project is to study the chemistry of CO2 on well defined Cu/ZnO nanoparticles on single crystalline alumina films. By gaining fundamental insight into the interplay of particle size, composition and the role of alumina support, we hope to deliver key information to developers of industrial catalysts via particle size controlled wet chemistry synthesis.