Research in 'Heterogeneous Reactions'
The energy challenge can be seen as the major challenge for today’s society and future generations. Chemistry plays a central role in the energy challenge, since most energy conversion systems work on (bio)chemical energy carriers and require for their use suitable process and material solutions. The enormous scale of their application demands optimization beyond the incremental improvement of empirical discoveries. For this reason we work on the development of knowledge-based systematic approaches in order to arrive at scalable and sustainable solutions.
Analysis of the processes that are essential to convert the current energy systems into sustainable systems indicates that the conversion of electricity into chemical energy is a critical process in the network of chemical energy conversion reactions. Both electrolysis and heterogeneous photochemical reactions are of relevance here. The difficult elementary steps are in the oxygen evolution reaction.
In a concerted effort the department develops a concept of carbon-based functional materials that operate in oxygen evolution either alone or doped with functional transition metal oxides. In parallel we study with advanced in-situ spectroscopic tools the reaction on performing systems with noble metals to learn about design requirements for systems operating with materials as used in the biological analogue. The resulting material solutions and synthesis tools will be transferred to catalytic processes binding primary hydrogen onto carrier molecules such as CO2 and N2 to arrive at practically useful solar fuels.
The work of the department is strictly knowledge-oriented to generate generic insight and solutions for synthesis and analysis of chemical energy conversion systems. Theory and molecular model studies with the other departments critically deepen our insight. The department engages into method development for operating advanced spectroscopic methods on heterogeneous and on homogeneous systems. Projects are performed in close collaboration with the Fritz-Haber-Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin.