Structure-Activity Relationships in Hydrogenation Reactions over Supported Nickel Nanoparticles
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and sustainably produced hydrogen (H2) have the potential to serve as an ingredient for converting electrical power generated by windmills or solar panels into fuels and base chemicals. This 'power-to-gas' concept can solve two problems at once: it reduces CO2 emissions, while creating more flexible applications of sustainable energy. The article “Feedstockdioxide” (in Dutch, for C2W subscribers) shares, amongst others, my view on some of the major challenges we are facing in order to accommodate such technology in a foreseeable future.
When we make metal nanoparticles smaller and smaller, they start to show very different properties to what we expect and understand from classical physics and chemistry. In my PhD research work I try to uncover the fundamental mechanisms behind these phenomena in the hydrogenation of CO2 into methane (CH4), and other structure-sensitive catalytic reactions, including the hydrogenation of unsaturated hydrocarbons, such as acetylene and aromatics. This in order to steer towards better, more efficient catalysts for these selective hydrogenation reactions, but also to understand what concepts we can best apply to mitigate CO2 pollution.
In a recent publication, we have studied the conversion process of the CO2-to-CH4 reaction in great detail, to determine the exact nano architecture of the perfect catalytic nanoparticle size (Link to press release:https://www.uu.nl/en/news/unlocking-the-potential-of-metal-nanoparticles-as-catalysts-for-fast-and-efficient-co2-conversion) . By combining different operando spectroscopic techniques (mainly transient infrared and X-ray spectroscopy) and several catalytic model reactions with a strong focus on CO2 hydrogenation, we work towards gaining fundamental understanding of structure-sensitivity effects and the aspects causing it on supported nickel nanoparticles. This project is a co-effort between University of Utrecht, Eindhoven University of Technology, and BASF.
Having a background in Business Administration, I am also interested to understand the applicability of the concepts I research experimentally and enjoy projects or collaborations to that end with economical, societal or political relevance. An example is when delegates from the Dutch House of Representatives (2de Kamer) visited our research group:
 Charlotte Vogt, Esther Groeneveld, Gerda Kamsma, Maarten Nachtegaal, Li Lu, Christopher J. Kiely, Peter H. Berben, Florian Meirer & Bert M. Weckhuysen, Nature Catalysis, 2018, doi:10.1038/s41929-017-0016-y