What We Do

The availability of renewable electricity is rapidly increasing. However, the generation of renewable electricity by solar panels or wind turbine fluctuates on a daily basis and on a seasonal basis. This means that there will be moments when there is more electricity produced than being consumed, for example on sunny summer days, while there will also be days where the demand for electricity is bigger than the availability. Therefore, processes need to be developed that can efficiently store electrical energy. One way of doing this is by performing electrochemical reactions and storing energy in chemical bonds.

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The research in our group focuses on electrocatalytic processes for the conversion of small molecules, such as CO2, H2O and N2, into valuable chemical building blocks and renewable fuels. These processes can aid in large-scale energy storage of renewable electricity, by storing energy in the form of chemical bonds, and can provide a renewable alternative for the production of commodity chemicals that are presently produced from fossil resources. We study how these electrocatalytic processes take place on the molecular scale, design and fabricate new electrocatalytic materials, optimize the process conditions and make innovative prototype devices that can perform these processes energy efficiently.

Research Strategy

Our research is divided in 4 subgroups that span from the atomic scale to the device scale. In the first subgroup, spectroelectrochemistry and mechanistic studies, we employ experimental techniques to obtain in depth atomistic understanding into how electrocatalytic reactions proceed on heterogeneous surfaces. The knowledge generated in this subgroup is of high importance to the design of new electrocatalytic systems and can provide us with valuable insights on how we can optimize electrocatalytic reactions.

The second subgroup looks at the development of novel electrocatalytic materials for CO2 and N2 reduction. By using our own mechanistic results in combination with theory, modelling and literature reports, we aim to design electrocatalysts with lower overpotentials and higher activities and product selectivities. One strategy applied in our research is designing and tuning bimetallic electrocatalysts to obtain the desired catalytic properties.

Newly developed electrocatalytic systems will only perform optimally if they operate under optimal conditions. In this subgroup we take a look at what the optimal conditions for an electrocatalyst is. We optimize transport of reactants towards the surface of the catalyst and transport of products away from the surface. Also, we study the effect of electrolyte pH and composition, thus the effect of different cationic and anionic species present in the electrolyte, on the outcome of electrochemical reactions.

The last step in going towards solutions for energy storage and conversion is the design of prototype devices and the upscaling of developed technology. Here we also take into account the long-term performance of the developed systems, possible issues with purity of feedstocks and the reduction of Ohmic losses in the devices. To reduce Ohmic losses in devices we study for instance bubble mitigation and membraneless operation.

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