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AK Strasser HomeThe ECEMS-Group

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research summary

Our research activities focus on the Materials Science and Catalysis of nanostructured materials for clean energy storage and conversation. In particular we are interested in the fundamental understanding of bimetallic electrocatalysis of low-temperature fuel cells, of the structural dynamics of nanoparticle catalyst ensembles, in (photo)catalytic processes for hydrogen production and water splitting, in catalytic bio-mass conversion processes and in bio-electrocatalytic analytics.

research projects and interests

1. Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells (DEFC)


The overall goal of our is to demonstrate the concept viability of direct ethanol fuel cells with improved catalyst and membrane components in lab scale single fuel cell units at elevated temperatures. The first specific objective towards achieving this goal is the discovery and development of novel selective multi-functional electrocatalyst materials for the ethanol oxidation reaction (EOR) and an ethanol tolerant catalyst for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR). Catalyst cost reduction is targeted by nanoengineering catalyst structures and surface properties, leading to the development of active catalytic material with a high selectivity with respect to 12 e- oxidation pathway to CO2.


Electrochemical in situ FTIR spectroscopy is able to provide information of adsorbed species on electrocatalytic surfaces at controlled potentials or a certain reaction progress, respectively. The captured information of FTIR spectra provides information of the bonding and adsorption of educts, intermediates and products at the same time. Combined with information about the surface composition and structure of the electrocatalysts this information can provide insights in reaction mechanisms at catalytic surfaces. This enables a systematic optimization of electrocatalytical anode materials for Direct Ethanol Fuel Cells.

2. Metal ion batteries


Understanding the ion transportation in electrodes is very important to improve the performance of battery electrode materials. We are investigating the intercalation process of Li-ion or Mg-ion into the cathode active materials using electrochemical and analytical chemical method.

3. Electrochemical CO2 reduction

  • Investigation of the electrochemical CO2 reduction on metal catalysts
  • Determination of the product distribution vs. reduction potential on copper electrodes
  • Increase of selectivity and current efficiency by modifying the metal surface
  • Investigation of particle size and anion effects   
  • capture and interpretation of electrochemical CO2-reduction with linearsweep- and cyclovoltammetry, chronoamperometry and Impedance measurements 
  • Online gas analysis with differential electrochemical mass spectrometer (DEMS)and gas chromatography GC

4. Oxygen Evolution Reaction (OER)

  • synthesis and characterization of noble metal Ir and Ru model catalyst systems for the oxygen evolution reaction
  • in-situ spectroscopy at the electrified catalyst-electrolyte interface
  • kinetic analysis and modeling
  • Mn-based oxygen evolution reaction (OER) electrocatalysts operate in neutral and alkaline electrolyte and are essential for the realization of a hydrogen economy due to their low toxicity, high abundance and inexpensiveness
  • MnOx nanoparticles deposited on multi-walled carbon nanotubes by incipient wetness impregnation (i-MnOx) and symproportionation reaction (s-MnOx) show promising OER activity and stability in neutral electrolyte
  • i-MnOx is comparable to state-of-art MnOx catalyst operating in strongly alkaline solutions and, therefore, offers advantages for hydrogen production from waste and sea water under neutral, hence, environmentally benign conditions

The NiFeOx nanoparticle project has focus on well-defined oxide nanoparticles, free in solution or immobilized onto high-surface area supports, where growth under different solvothermal synthesis routes are investigated. Structure-activity relationship will be investigated by in-situ characterization during electrochemical cycling, in order to understand the fundamental catalytic mechanism and the relationship to parameters such as changes in (surface) structure and intermediates and how it relates to the catalytic efficiency and stability.

  • Development of robust synthetic methods to oxide-supported core-shell bimetallic IrxM1-xOy (M = Ni, Co) nanoparticles.
  • Establish and utilize structure-activity-stability relationships of core-shell bimetallic OER nanoparticle electrocatalysts. This involves the preparation of porous, conductive oxide supports and the controlled deposition of oxide nanoparticles with controlled loading.
  • Obtain understanding of the mechanism of the OER reaction on core-sell nanoparticles using electro-chemical kinetic data combined with in-situ spectroscopic information from SAXS.
  • Synthesizing bimetallic Ir-Ni nanoparticles using polyol method. Characterizing as-prepared nanoparticles by XRD, TEM, ICP, STEM-EELS.
    • Recording and analysis of kinetic data of the electrochemical Oxygen Evolution in acidic enviroment using RDE, Linear Sweep- and Cyclic Voltammetry, Galvanostatic Chronoamperometry and Impedance measurements.

5. Oxygen reduction reaction (ORR)

  • Synthesis and characterization of PtNi nanoparticles for oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in polymer membran electrolyte fuel cell (PEMFC).
  • Use of different dealloying procederes (electrochemical dealloying and chemical dealloying) for the best catalyst performance.
  • Improve catalyst activity and durability using ternary alloys PtNiX (X = Zn, Co, V, Mn).

Shape-selective octahedral Pt-Ni alloy nanoparticles exposing {111} facets are uniquely active electrocatalysts in low-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells. We focus on surfactant-free solvothermal synthesis of shaped nanocatalysts and investigate their structural behavior during electrocatalysis.

  • Investigation of catalytic activity and stability of non-noble metal (NNMC) and specially bimetallic Mn:Fe catalyst by RDE and fuel cell test.
  • Fundamental studies for deeper insight to the active site structure and density by temperature programmed desorption (TPD) and pulse chemisorption.
  • Design new catalyst material based on the active sight investigation data.

6. electrochemical coversion storage using biomass



Crude oil reserves are finite and their demand in the world is growing. In the other hand, much attention is paid to renewable energy such as wind, solar and geothermal, but none of these renewable sources can be used to produce organic chemicals which are currently derived from fossil fuels. Carbon-containing molecules found in renewable biomass could potentially serve as a sustainable feedstock for the chemical industry.  In order to claim biomass conversion technologies are renewable and zero carbon foot-print, one should address the source of heating, pure oxygen and hydrogen required for the process. To address such issues, we believe that selective chemical transformation and direct use of sun energy will be the ultimate solution. Renewable solar/wind electricity and renewable biomass conversion represent two fundamental pillars for a future sustainable supply of energy and chemicals. Both areas are currently developing independently. This research group investigates ways to bring the two areas together by using electrical energy to convert biomass into chemicals; it offers a comparative perspective of biomass-based chemical processes using electrochemical catalysis. Electrochemical catalysis offers the added advantage by providing the electrode potential and the faradaic current as two additional external control parameters. These are helpful to tune the thermodynamic driving force, activation energy and thus the reaction rate and selectivity of complex reaction processes. The key platform molecule of interest here is 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) obtained from glucose/fructose. The study suggests that the electrical potential can serve as an effective parameter for controlling the product selectivity in HMF conversion reactions.


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