Tue, 22 May 2018

Dr. Pawel J. Kulesza

University of Warsaw

Structure and Reactivity of Hybrid Electrocatalytic Materials of Defined Functionality

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
AQ 3003 @ 1:30 p.m.

Host: Dr. Michael Eikerling


Our research interests aim at establishing structure/property relations leading to rational designs of functionalized materials for efficient electrocatalysis and electrochemical energy conversion and storage. Graphene is, in principle, a promising material for consideration as component (support, active site) of electrocatalytic materials, particularly with respect to reduction of oxygen, an electrode reaction of importance to low-temperature fuel cell technology. Different concepts of utilization, including nanostructuring, doping, admixing, preconditioning, modification or functionalization of various graphene-based systems for catalytic electroreduction of oxygen are elucidated, as well as important strategies to enhance the systems’ overall activity and stability are discussed.

There has been growing interest in the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas and a contributor to global climate change. Given the fact that the CO2 molecule is very stable, its electroreduction processes are characterized by large overpotentials. To optimize the hydrogenation-type electrocatalytic approach, we have proposed to utilize nanostructured metallic centers (e.g. Pd, Pt or Ru) in a form of highly dispersed and reactive nanoparticles generated within supramolecular network of distinct nitrogen, sulfur or oxygen-coordination complexes. Among important issues are the mutual completion between hydrogen evolution and carbon dioxide reduction and specific interactions between coordinating centers and metallic sites. We have also explored the ability of biofilms to form hydro-gel-type aggregates of microorganisms attached to various surfaces including those of carbon electrode materials. Upon incorporation of various noble metal nanostructures and/or conducting polymer ultra-thin films, highly reactive and selective systems toward CO2-reduction have been obtained. Another possibility to enhance electroreduction of carbon dioxide is to explore direct transformation of solar energy to chemical energy using transition metal oxide semiconductor materials. We show here that, by intentional and controlled combination of metal oxide semiconductors (titanium (IV) oxide and copper (I) oxide), we have been able to drive effectively photoelectrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide mostly to methanol.

Application of mixed-metal oxides as active matrices is also of particular importance to electrocatalytic oxidations of small organic molecules in low-temperature fuel cell technologies. The hydrous behavior, which favors proton mobility and affects overall reactivity, reflects not only the oxide’s chemical properties but its texture and morphology as well. For example, during oxidation of ethanol (e.g. at PtRu), when rhodium nanoparticles have been dispersed in between WO3 and ZrO2 layers, significant current enhancements are observed. The result can be rationalized in terms of the formation of nanoreactors in which Rh induces splitting of C-C bonds in C2H5OH molecules before the actual electrooxidtion steps.

We also consider nanoelectrocatalytic systems permitting effective operation of the iodine-based charge relays in dye sensitized solar cells. The ability of palladium or platinum nanostructures to induce splitting of I-I bonds in the iodine (triiodide) molecules is explored here to enhance electron transfers in the triiodide/iodide-containing 1,3-dialkylimidazolium room-temperature ionic liquids.