In recognition of Sebastian’s PhD thesis on hard X-ray microscopy, tomography, and application of synchrotron radiation in catalysis research
Sebastian Weber, a recent PhD graduate at the Institute for Chemical Technology and Polymer Chemistry (ITCP) / Institute for Catalysis Research and Technology (IKFT) at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), was awarded the Gold Medal in the PhD category of the European Young Chemists‘ Award. The award is presented every two years during the EuChemS Chemistry Congress on behalf of the Società Chimica Italiana (SCI) and the European Chemical Society (EuChemS). The prize highlights excellent research from young / early stage researchers across all fields of chemistry and chemical sciences. During his PhD phase, Sebastian Weber studied materials used in heterogeneous catalysis with a broad range of spatially-resolved X-ray characterisation methods, in order to gain a deeper understanding of the structure and function of catalysts. The project made extensive use of synchrotron radiation, specifically X-ray microscopy and tomography as emerging methods in catalysis research. This success on the European level highlights the leading role which synchrotron science has to play in the study of matter.
Catalysis plays a crucial role in sustainable chemical production, chemical energy conversion and storage, among many others, and is a key technology area in synchrotron radiation research. During his PhD work at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Sebastian Weber studied catalysts for CO2 methanation using spatially-resolved characterisation tools including X-ray microscopy and tomography. These diverse X-ray imaging methods were exploited to study the 3D structure of catalytic materials over a range of length scales, addressing various levels of hierarchical structural features which are critical to understanding catalyst performance. This topic is a special focus of the Young Investigator Group of Dr. Thomas Sheppard at KIT, who supervised and secured funding for the project, within the wider group of Prof. Jan-Dierk Grunwaldt.
Only a handful of research groups worldwide are currently active in the field of X-ray microscopy applied to catalysis research, highlighting the emerging role of this vibrant research field. During his PhD work, Sebastian Weber in particular worked to develop applications of hard X-ray ptychography and ptychographic X-ray tomography (PXCT) to study catalyst pore structures, structural evolution under reaction conditions, and the effects of catalyst deactivation. These methods routinely reach spatial resolution below 50 nanometres (0.001 x diameter of a human hair), and have been applied so far on samples up to 50 micron in diameter (ca. the diameter of a human hair). The further development of ptychography holds excellent potential for catalysis and materials research, particularly in the age of fourth generation light sources with improved coherence and decreased source emittance. The project resulted in several high quality publications in leading chemistry and materials journals, reflecting the knowledge gained regarding 3D structure of catalysts, and the potential for development of improved catalysts in future.
Sebastian Weber recently completed his doctorate with the title “Revealing Porosity and Structure of Ni-based Catalysts for Dynamic CO2 Methanation with Hard X-rays”, earning a distinction from KIT. Now his work was further recognised by securing the Gold Medal of the European Young Chemists’ Award at PhD level. The award is presented every two years during the EuChemS Chemistry Congress on behalf of the Società Chimica Italiana (SCI) and the European Chemical Society (EuChemS). The prize highlights excellent research from young / early stage researchers across all fields of chemistry and chemical sciences, and is therefore a highly competitive prize. After a pre-selection phase based on scientific excellence, the six finalists each held a presentation at the EuChemS Chemistry Congress in Lisbon, Portugal. The award not only highlights the excellent contribution of Sebastian Weber to the field of chemical sciences, but promotes in front a broad audience the essential role of synchrotron radiation in delivering future insights and innovations across the field of natural sciences.
Related articles on this research can be found in the Diamond Annual Review 2021-2022, “X-ray ptychography investigates coking of solid catalysts in 3D”, p.66-67, and on the DESY website
Image: Award ceremony during the 8th EuChemS Chemistry Congress in Lisbon, Portugal, Sebastian Weber (KIT, left), Prof. Floris Rutjes (President of the European Chemical Society, middle) and Prof. Angela Agostiano (Chair of the EYCA Award Committee, right).