Observing Catalyst Nanoparticles for Carbon Dioxide Conversion to Useful Chemicals

In a world of global warming and diminishing resources, we must find ways to efficiently produce chemicals and fuels from waste products such as carbon dioxide, rather than from the fossil fuel sources currently used. Nanoparticle catalysts can increase the rate at which a desired product is produced, by promoting certain reactions over others. However to design the size and composition of these catalysts we need to understand how they behave under the elevated temperatures and pressures typical in a catalytic reactor.
This project aims to employ advanced sample preparation and operando characterisation techniques to directly observe the chemical state of catalyst nanoparticles and how this influences the products formed. This will help inform the design of new catalysts and processes that more efficiently convert raw materials into desired products. 

This project will make use of a novel micro-reactor developed within the group that incorporates graphene windows, allowing surface-sensitive X-ray spectroscopy methods to be extended to more realistic pressures of several atmospheres and above (see https://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jacs.2c12728). Graphene-supported nanoparticles will be produced, their performance as catalysts tested, and operando X-ray photoelectron and absorption spectroscopies (XPS/XAS) employed to understand how chemical changes affect their performance. This will make use of state-of-the-art chemical/physical vapour deposition capabilities and XAS/XPS equipment in the host group, as well as synchrotron facilities at the nearby Diamond Light Source.

Any questions concerning the project can be addressed to Dr Robert Weatherup (robert.weatherup@materials.ox.ac.uk).

General enquiries on how to apply can be made by e mail to graduate.studies@materials.ox.ac.uk.  You must complete the standard Oxford University Application for Graduate Studies.  Further information and an electronic copy of the application form can be found at https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/graduate/applying-to-oxford.

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