The chipCAT project will focus at knowledge-driven development of novel thin-film catalysts for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). The state-of-the-art thin film technology, particularly the plasma assisted physical vapor deposition (PVD) methods, has already achieved a cutting-edge level in the field on novel material synthesis. Co-deposition of materials at equilibrium or non-equilibrium conditions leads to easy and fast preparation of new compounds. This way a virtually unlimited number of combinations of functional materials can be created including nanoalloys, mixed oxides, and nanostructured porous materials. The ground-breaking potential of these thin film technologies in catalysis, however, has not been exploited yet. While scaling up of thin film processes has issues that limit the techniques to relatively small areas (less than a few square meters), in the case of fuel cells for mobile applications - ranging from automotive to micro-device electronic systems - size is not a critical parameter, however.
Inspired by this huge and unexplored development potential, the project is organized in several conceptual and coordinated steps. The first and fundamental research part of the project will start from theoretical and modeling foundations which will be closely connected with studies of model catalysts and of thin film growth mechanisms using advanced modern material characterization techniques. This will provide the fundamental understanding and the toolbox needed to tailor the design the new thin film catalyst with predefined catalytic properties.