February 25, 2021

ESR 14

Structure-activity relationships in supported size-selected clusters under CO2 electro-reduction conditions

Dr. Juan Herranz / Prof. Dr. Thomas J. Schmidt (PSI/ETH Zurich)


  • To electrochemically test Pt-Pd and Pd-Bi bimetallic cluster systems with different nanoparticle structures, compositions and sizes
  • To develop a novel electrochemical cell for in situ XAFS measurements of these and other materials in CATCHY
  • To determine the structural and electronic properties of the deposited clusters of interest using in situ XAFS under CO2 electro-reduction conditions
  • To correlate these results with those derived from the modelling of equivalent catalytic systems

Expected Results

  • Design principles (i.e., structure, composition, particle size) for the preparation of bimetallic Pt-Pd and Pd-Bi catalysts for CO2-to-C1 electro-reduction, accompanied by greatly-needed spectroscopic/modelling insight regarding the effect of the d-band structure on the activity and selectivity of such catalysts
  • Improved understanding of the reaction mechanisms and reactivity descriptors leading to each product.
  • Potential implementation of the most interesting catalytic system(s) in device-relevant GDEs


  • Catchy Outreaching Events

Planned Secondments

  • VITO: training in industrial electrode design
  • KUL: to fabricate cluster-decorated electrodes
  • DTU: to exchange know-how on electrocatalyst characterization

Job Announcement

PhD student
in electrocatalysis and in situ / operando spectroscopy

Your tasks:
•  The European Training Network CATCHY provides a concerted effort to design novel high-performance thermo- and electrocatalysts for the conversion of CO2 into added-value synthetic fuels. In this context, your work will focus on uncovering the relation between nanoparticle sizes / compositions and their product selectivity upon CO2-electroreduction.
•   Using samples prepared by network partners, you will participate in the design of the experimental setups allowing in situ / operando X-ray absorption spectroscopy measurements of these materials, and perform such experiments at the Swiss Light Source.
•   You will actively interact with your colleagues at PSI’s Electrochemistry Laboratory and  the Operando Spectroscopy group, as well as with the EU network partners.
•   Three 2 month secondments in the partners’ organizations are foreseen within the PhD project to get experience in complementary characterization techniques.

Your profile:
•   You hold a university degree (MSc or equivalent) in chemistry, chemical engineering, material science or a related field.
•   You possess a knowledge of physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry and /or electrochemistry. Experience in analytical methods (e.g., gas chromatography) and spectroscopy, as well as with radiation methods (X-ray diffraction, X-ray spectroscopy or imaging) are welcome assets.
•   You enjoy practical work using advanced instrumentation and like to conduct research in a team. Very good communication skills in English complete your application profile.
 •  You will be registered as a PhD Student at ETH Zurich, under the guidance of Prof. Thomas J. Schmidt.