June 14, 2024


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

Dr. Olga Safonova / Prof. Christophe Copéret (ETH Zürich)


  • To develop in situ/ operando setups for X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS) and IR characterization of supported metal clusters under controlled temperature, pressure, gas compositions allowing simultaneous activity testing
  • To uncover the structure of metal clusters during CO2 hydrogenation
  • To rationalize how the activity, selectivity and stability of CO2 hydrogenation catalysts can be improved by tuning the cluster composition, size and the nature of the support

Expected Results

  • Development of in situ/operando setups
  • Information on the reactivity of each metal in the clusters under CO2 to methanol hydrogenation
  • Correlations between structure, activity, selectivity and stability of clusters
  • Identification of the role of the support


  • Catchy Outreaching Events

Planned Secondments

  • DTU for training in cluster deposition and activity characterization in microreactors
  • UA for training on in situ TEM
  • HDE for training in electrolytic conversion of small organic molecules and industrial activity measurements

Job Announcement

PhD student
in heterogeneous catalysis 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 structure-activity-selectivity relationships in heterogeneous catalysts based on supported metal nanoparticles and their alloys for CO2 hydrogenation reactions.
•   You will participate in the preparation of catalysts, design of experimental setups for in situ/operando X-ray absorption and infrared spectroscopy and perform experiments at the Swiss Light Source .
•   You will actively interact with your colleagues at PSI and ETH Zurich and with partners from the EU collaboration network focused on CO2 hydrogenation on cluster-based catalysts.
•  Three 2-month secondments in EU partners’ organizations are foreseen within the PhD project to get experience in complementary characterization techniques.
Your profile:
•  University degree (Master or equivalent) in chemistry, chemical engineering, material science or a related field.
•  Knowledge of physical chemistry, chemical physics or material science. Experience in chemical preparation, analytical methods (mass-spectrometry, gas chromatography etc.) or spectroscopy is an asset.
•  You enjoy practical work using advanced instrumentation and like to conduct research in a team. Very good communication skills in English are completing your application profile.
 •  You will be registered as a PhD Student at the ETH Zurich in the group of Prof. Christophe Copéret