Postdoc in Fundamental Studies on Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction

Friday 11 Sep 20

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With decreasing electrical costs due to wind and solar, we are now at the point where we can take electrolysis based techniques to start to developing other sectors. This is especially pertinent in Denmark as we will reach 100% renewable electricity in 2027 and have planned for renewable electricity beyond this amount to allow for us to sustainably transition other sectors, such as the chemicals industry, which contributes to 7% of all greenhouse gasses.  CO2 electrolysis is an excellent approach to use society’s dominant greenhouse gas as a means to provide the base chemicals such as CO, ethanol, and ethylene on which the chemicals industry is built.  While CO2 electrolysis allows for a wide variety of carbon based products, we still do not have control over the selectivity and need excessive overpotential for this reaction to occur.

With copper being the only effective catalyst for CO2 electrolysis, there has been a void of creative ideas to improve its performance. This project will work to create breakthroughs by using electronic tunneling from an electrode to a catalyst to modify selectivity.  Electronically tunneling through various barrier thicknesses will allow us to control the current at a given potential, something quite unusual in electrocatalysis.  Furthermore the electrode surface will actually be non-conductive thus allowing for a unique support on which the electrocatalyst will react.  While the focus on this project will be on CO2 electrolysis due to its wide variety of product selectivity, potentially other electrocatalysis reactions could be investigated as well.  We are simply looking to explore using electronic tunneling in electrocatalysis and this project has the freedom to follow the most promising aspect of that.

This will be an experimental project that will involve using ALD to produce tunnel barriers and then depositing catalysts on via physical vapor deposition techniques (i.e. sputtering sub monolayer of catalysts) or wet chemical techniques, and then characterizing their morphology and electronic structure with tools such as XPS, ISS, SEM, XRD. Electrocatalysis measurements would then be tested either via an H-cell with in-line gas chromatographs or mass spectrometry via Spectro Inlets based sniffer chip technology due to its ultra-high sensitivity. Our goal would be to denote changes in either activity or selectivity and relate this to the effects induced via tunneling.

The project is funded by the Villum Foundation and will take place at the SurfCat laboratories at DTU Physics. In these laboratories we have 3 Sniffer chip devices, 20 potentiostats, 4 RDE set-ups, 5 gas chromatographs, 2 magnetron sputter chambers, 2 mass-selected cluster source devices, 5 XPS (one with in-line electrochemical set-up), 3 gloveboxes, 2 XRD set-ups (one allowing in-situ annealing with gas flow), ICP-MS, FTIR, 3 full time technicians, and a sufficient number of wet-labs, fume hoods, and furnaces. We also have access to clean room facilities and electron microscopy via DTU Nanolab, as well as a consultant on innovation who has helped start up 3 start-ups in the last 7 years from the SurfCat section of DTU Physics.

It is essential that the successful candidate is highly ambitious as well as open minded and willing and able to work as part of a team. The candidate should have a PhD degree in Physics, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Material Science or a similar field or will expect to have that degree within the immediate future.  The candidate should have extensive experimental experience working with electrocatalytic reactions and preferably experience with clean room techniques and vacuum based technology (sputtering, ALD, etc.). 

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The post-doctoral position is for 2 years. The position start date is negotiable, but must be on or before March 1st 2021.

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Further information
For further information about the research at SurfCat at the Department of Physics at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) please inspect

Should you have any queries regarding the positions, please contact Associate Professor Brian Seger

Please submit your online application no later than 25 October 2020 (local time). Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online," fill in the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include: 

  • A letter motivating the application (cover letter (Max one page))
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Grade transcripts and PhD diploma
  • Names and e-mail addresses or telephone numbers of 2-3 references.

Applications and enclosures received after the deadline will not be considered.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

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