Getting nanoparticle catalysts into shape

The European Research Council is supporting the catalyst research of Bochum-based scientist Beatriz Roldán Cuenya. Ultimately, this could help to use climate-damaging CO2 in a sensible way.

Prof Dr Beatriz Roldán Cuenya will receive one of the most renowned Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). The grant funding is two million euros for five years. The RUB scientist aims to use the money to gain new insights into the catalytic abilities of nanoparticles, particularly how the size, shape and chemical state of the particles change during a catalytic reaction.

Catalysts for CO2 recycling

Tiny metal particles, just 1 to 50 nanometres large, can be used as catalysts for various reactions. Numerous parameters influence the catalytic activity of the nanoparticles: their size and shape, the support material to which the particles are bound, the environment, and the chemical state of the particles, i.e., for instance, whether they are present as a pure metal or as an oxide.

Little is currently understood about the role of particle shape; what’s more, the aforementioned parameters can also influence each other. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya would like to understand in detail how the geometric and electronic properties of the nanoparticles determine their catalytic activity. This would make it possible to specifically design catalysts with the best possible efficiency.

The results are intended to open up new ways of directly converting the climate gas CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels.
– Beatriz Roldán Cuenya

The research in Bochum as part of the ERC grant focuses on catalysts for two chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide into useful substances. “The results are intended to open up new ways of directly converting the climate gas CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels, for instance methanol, ethanol, propanol, methane or ethylene,” says Chair Professor of solid state physics Roldán Cuenya, who is also a member of the cluster of excellence Resolv.

About the person

Beatriz Roldán Cuenya studied physics at the University of Oviedo, Spain. In 2001, she completed her doctoral thesis in the field of solid-state physics at the University of Duisburg-Essen. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California in Santa Barbara and became an Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida (Orlando) in 2004, where she became Full Professor in 2012. Beatriz Roldán Cuenya has held the chair for solid-state physics at RUB since 2013 and is a member of the cluster of excellence Ruhr Explores Solvation (Resolv).