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Research

The group Electrocatalysis, Surface and Reactivity has been created in 2007 upon arrival of Elena Savinova first as invited professor and then as a faculty, since 01/09/2007.

The group Electrochemistry and Energy Conversion emerged from the group Electrocatalysis, Surface and Reactivity in 2013 with the objective to reinforce the thematic areas devoted to electrocatalysis and energy conversion in newly created ICPEES. The group has strong expertise in interfacial electrochemistry and electrocatalysis, in particular electrochemical and electrocatalytic properties of nanomaterials. We are developing diverse scientific projects devoted to fundamental and applied aspects of interfacial electrochemistry, electrocatalysis, fuel cells and energy stockage and conversion.

1. Model studies in electrocatalysis

  • Scheme of in situ ATR SEIRAS setupSize and structural effects in electrocatalysis of fuel cell-related processes and beyond
  • Design and investigation of spatially ordered nanostructures
  • In situ FTIR spectroscopy to study of solid-liquid electrified interfaces.

In situ FTIR spectroscopy allows to study the chemical composition of electrode-electrolyte interface under precise electrochemical control. Study of adsorption at electrode surface and/or formation of reaction intermediate in complex electrocatalytic reaction are but a few examples of application of in situ FTIR method. We are working with standard external reflection configuration as well as with internal reflection ATR-SEIRAS configuration. It allows us to utilize different types of electrodes (bulk metal, thin films, powders) for steady-state and dynamic studies of composition of electrochemical interface.

2. Novel materials for electrocatalysis.

  • Pt-free catalysts with optimized size and structure

Recent developments of solid alkaline fuel cells (SAFCs) trigger the interest toward the catalytic materials for its electrode reactions, hydrogen electrooxidation and oxygen electroreduction in alkaline media. For these reactions, Ni-based anode and mixte oxide cathode catalysts are very promising alternative to significantly more expensive Pt-based catalysts.

We are performing synthesis and characterization of mixte oxide (composite: perovskite-carbon or C supported perovskite) and Ni-based mono- and bimetallic supported nanoparticles for anodic catalytic layers in SAFCs. Characterization of their electrocatalytic properties is performed in standard 3-electrode electrochemical cells. We are developing the approaches to build half-cell and single cell MEA with Pt-free catalysts.

  • Carbon support materials with optimized morphology and surface properties
  • Metal oxide supports: structuring and modification with catalytically active components

Metal oxide supports, in particularly titania (TiO2) based supports are promising and yet seldom TiO2 nanotubes prepared by electrochemical anodizationstudied type of supports for electrocatalysis. Metal oxides generally have high chemical resistance. Metal-support interaction resulting in anomalously high catalytic activity is known in heterogeneous catalysis for TiO2 supports, while in electrocatalysis this phenomena is not yet explored.

In order to eliminate the problem of not high electrical conductivity of TiO2 supports, we are utilizing the ordered layers of aligned nanotubes with high surface-to-volume ratio and low grain boundaries concentration. We are interested in application of this novel nanosctructured materials in various electrocatalytic processes, including fuel cell reactions. We are working on the adjustment of the morphology and chemical composition of TiO2 nanotubalr supports and metal deposits.

3. Electrochemical energy conversion and stockage

  • Fuel cells studies: solid alkaline fuel cells (in collaboration with Anne Hébrault and G. Schlatter),

Solid alkaline fuel cells (SAFCs) combines the advantages of solid polymer membrane fuel cells, namely compact design and relatively low ohmic losses, with that of alkaline fuel cells. In the latter the non-noble metal of metal oxide catalysts can be utilized, reducing the price of the device. Thus, SAFCs are very promising and rapidly developing system of fuel-to-electricity conversion.

We are working on the development of the catalytic layers for anode (hydrogen oxydation) and cathode reactions (oxygen reduction). In collaboration with Anne Hébrault and G. Schlatter, we are developing and testing the complete membrane-electrode assembly under the conditions of the operations of fuel cells, where the membrane is prepared by electrospinning.

  • Photoelectrochemical water splitting (in collaboration with group of V.Keller)

Photoelectrochemical cell for hydrogen production by water splittingFew decades ago the concept of photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) has been introduced, in which electrolysis of water and hydrogen production on Pt cathode was assisted by light illumination of TiO2 photoanode. In comparison with conventional photocatalytic reactor, PEC has an advantage of spatial separation of anodic and cathodic processes, thus, preventing chemical recombination of product of electrolysis and allowing separate tuning of anode and cathode catalysts. Contrary to water electrolyzers, demanding constant voltage supply, water splitting may occur in PEC with TiO2 photoanode and Pt cathode under illumination without application of external voltage. However, the rate of this process is still too slow for its commercialization.

We are working on the development of novel efficient photoanodes for PEC, based on nanostructured TiO2. We are optimizing its morphology and chemical composition in order to tune its surface reactivity and electronic structure. The overall yield studies are performed under the modeled solar light illumination; the study of quantum yield are performed with monochromator light source. 

  • Novel materials for supercapacitors (in collaboration with group of D.Bégin)