ERC Synergy Grant Projekt

Directed Evolution of Catalysts

Catalysts should be efficient and durable. To find them, teams from the DEMI project led by Alfred Ludwig are systematically working together to develop new concepts.

Hydrogen is considered the energy carrier of the future. To produce it, reactions have to be catalysed, some of which take place under extreme conditions. Previous electrocatalysts usually cannot withstand this for long – new materials are needed that are both powerful and durable, and ideally do not contain expensive and scarce elements. A Danish-German-Swiss research consortium is systematically taking a new approach in the project “Directed Evolution of Metastable Electrocatalyst Interfaces for Energy Conversion“, or DEMI for short.

The needle in the haystack

Materials consisting of five or more elements are particularly promising as electrocatalysts. The researchers are practically looking for a needle in a haystack, because there is an almost infinite number of possible compounds. In order to be able to perform a targeted search, the scientists Professor Jan Rossmeisl from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark), Professor Alfred Ludwig from Ruhr University Bochum (Germany), Professor Karl Mayrhofer from the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen Nuremberg/Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg and Professor Matthias Arenz from the University of Bern (Switzerland) are pooling their expertise.

The researchers’ goal is to find materials that can perform for a long time under load.

Three reactions are particularly important for applications: For fuel cells, the oxygen reduction reaction, which is already well understood, and the oxygen evolution reaction - OER for short. The latter is considered a key reaction, because it takes place under such difficult conditions that almost all previous catalysts dissolve within a short time. The third important reaction is the CO2 reduction reaction. This is less about the durability of the catalysts and more about their selectivity, since one wants to convert CO2 into other substances that can be used sensibly, as efficiently and exclusively as possible.

Professor Alfred Ludwig

Prof. Dr. Alfred Ludwig heads the chair Materials Discovery and Interfaces and is scientific director of the Center for Interfacially Dominated High Performance Materials ZGH.


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