The hydrogenation of captured carbon dioxide for the production of chemicals and fuels, e.g. methanol and methane, is regarded as one key strategy to effectively tackle the global climate change. A complete understanding of the complex reaction network, as well as the interactions between the catalyst and the reactive species is crucial for the rational design of materials with tailored properties.

The parameter space influencing the complex nature of the active sites, catalyst structure and composition, and performance, is vast and time-consuming to investigate. Combinatorial methods and high-throughput techniques have the potential to accelerate the process.

At Empa, we developed a combinatorial setup for neutron imaging (CONI), capable of simultaneously measure up to 69 samples under identical conditions. This allows not only the quantification of the amount of hydrogen – a key player in this reaction – interacting with the catalyst, but also the identification of the type of interaction (irreversible/reversible uptake, intercalation in the oxide framework, and exchange with deuterium).

The master’s thesis project work will consist of:

  • Catalysts synthesis and characterization
  • Measuring the catalytic performance and correlating it with the results of the neutron measurements
  • Perform neutron experiments (upcoming beam time at PSI, NEUTRA)
  • Investigation of reactor scale-up for CO2 hydrogenation reactions

The catalytic experiments will be performed in our labs at Empa, Dübendorf, whereas the neutron experiments will be carried out at PSI. In addition to the, the student will be able to get first-hand experience with advanced characterization techniques (XPS / HAXPES) available here at Empa. The results generated during the project time will be included in a publication in a peer reviewed journal.

If you are interested, please send a short (max 5 lines) motivation to:

Dr. Andreas Borgschulte,
Marin Nikolic,
Alessia Cesarini,

Group Website:

[1] M. Nikolic et al., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys. 2022, 24 (44), 27394-27405.