Atomic layer deposition of nanometals for renewable hydrogen production

Group: CoCooN

Promotors: Jolien Dendooven and Christophe Detavernier

Supervisors: Nithin Poonkottil and Ranjith Ramachandran

For more information, call 09/264.43.42 or contact one of the persons above (contact details are appearing by clicking on the person's name)

The conversion of water into hydrogen fuel using excess electricity generated by renewables is considered an interesting route to cope with the depletion of fossil energy resources and to limit global warming. Electrolyzers that use electrochemical reactions to split water into oxygen and hydrogen are a key technology. Electrocatalysts are required to speed up the reactions and current benchmark materials rely on noble metals (Figure 1a). The addition of a non-noble metal to noble metals can further improve the efficiency and stability. Synthesizing bimetallic nanoparticles with reduced noble metal loading will also be a cost-effective solution in the current scenario.

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For the aforementioned applications precisely controlling the composition, size and morphology of the nanoparticles is very crucial. Here, the ability of Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) to precisely and uniformly deposit thin films and nanoparticles offers important advantages. The goal of this thesis is to investigate novel ALD strategies to develop Pt based bimetallic nanoparticles.

During this thesis, the student will have the opportunity to synthesize different bi-metallic particles such as Pt/Sn, Pt/Fe etc. by combining their respective ALD processes. The deposited films will be characterized by in-situ X-ray diffraction to unveil the deposited phases and to understand the phase changes during annealing. XRD provides information about the crystallinity of the deposited material and with the in-situ XRD technique at CoCooN, UGent, one can obtain in-situ data about the phase changes occurring as a function of temperature (Figure 1b). This is expected to provide new insights towards tuning different phases of bimetallic particles by utilizing the cyclic nature of ALD processes. The particle size and morphology will be investigated using Scanning Electron Microscope. This project is ideally suited to gain a broad knowledge in the fields of thin film and nanoparticle deposition, x-ray based characterization techniques, materials science and water splitting technology.