PhD Studentship: Combining nanoscale ptychography and multiscale imaging for probing the nature of active sites in multifunctional hierarchical catalysts

Website DiamondLightSou Diamond Light Source

Supervisors & University

University: University of Southampton
University Supervisor: Prof. Robert Raja
University Group: Chemistry
Diamond Supervisors: Dr. Paul Quinn and Dr. Julia Parker
Diamond Group: Beamline I14

Project Description

This multidisciplinary research proposal is aimed at creating an atomic-scale design platform for the predictive fabrication and rational design of advanced nanoparticle catalysts. We will devise functionalised, hierarchically porous catalytic architectures, which will serve as supports for the deposition and growth of multimetallic nanoparticles. By selectively placing nanoparticles, inside either the micropores or mesopores of the support, it is possible to modulate the catalytic activity, leading to structure-property correlations through differing levels of steric confinement. Innovative nanoscale spectroscopic and imaging studies (Diamond, I14) will significantly complement cutting-edge predictive design tools (Southampton), and this will provide (for the first time) detailed structural and spatial information at the atomic level, for establishing the precise nature of the nanoparticles, their location and support interactions, when confined within hierarchical architectures. Initial ex situ studies will provide the foundation for operando developments, for both the spectroscopy and microscopy investigations, enabling the origin of catalytic behaviour to be probed at the nanoscale. Multi-scale experimental design coupled with advanced 3D imaging techniques, will not only demonstrate the scientific basis for this project, but will facilitate a wider technical development program for operando studies in spatial imaging, XANES mapping and ptychography. These fundamental structural studies will form the basis for evaluating a range of catalytic descriptors, including photocatalytic CO2 conversion to fuels, biofuel upgrading and C-H activation, to understand synergistic effects in nanoparticle catalysis and associated mechanistic insights. Harmonising the predictive design rationale with operando studies aimed at understanding the local structural environment at the molecular level and, further augmenting these with catalytic descriptors and quantitative computational and theoretical models, will elicit structure-property correlations to validate our approach for industrial compliance in emerging sustainable catalytic applications.

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