Design of thin-film nanocatalysts for on-chip fuel cell technology

Prof. Vladimír Matolín

Surface Physics group
Department of Surface and Plasma Science
Faculty of Mathematics and Physics (FMP)
Charles University in Prague (CUP)

The Charles University in Prague, founded in 1348, is a public university and, as such, an autonomous scientific and educational institution. Of the yearly budget of 300 M€ about 45% arrives as state educational funding, 29% from competitive research grants and 26% from its own income. The Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, formed in 1952, comprises the School of Mathematics, School of Physics and School of Computer Science. Among them the School of Physics is made of 14 departments and institutes. The School of Physics steadily produces about 70% of scientific publications output of FMP with over 700 articles in peer-review journals in 2011. CUP surface science laboratory developed a top-class expertise in surface analysis, thin film growth and studies of reaction mechanism on catalyst surfaces. The main specialty is complex (synchrotron radiation) photoelectron spectroscopy (PES) investigations of chemical states and electronic structure of model and nanostructured thin-film (TF) catalysts. The SPL expertise will be used to develop novel tailor-made TF catalysts for the application in planar and conventional micro- and small-size proton exchange membrane FCs by combining fundamental surface science, model catalysis, and advanced TF deposition techniques.

Scientific and management part of the project will be coordinated by the Prof.Vladimir Matolin, the project's key investigator, the Head of Surface Physics group and the Head of Surface and Plasma Science Department of FMP CUP. The project research team core will consist beside the coordinator of two surface scientists with strong background in surface reactivity and electron microscopy: Ass. Prof. Iva Matolínová, Dr, whose main research tasks will be the investigation of surface reactivity using model catalysts, sub-coordination of microscopy (including EBL) and FIB works, and investigation of NCF structure by SEM/EDX/FIB/GIS, interpretation of the TEM data, dissemination of results, and Dr. Daniel Mazur, responsible for experimental model studies, electron diffraction, and AFM study of NCFs. Dr. Mazur is the Management Secretary for the project as well. Furthermore, two postdoctoral specialists will be involved: Dr. Michal Václavů, an expert in electrochemistry, PEMFCs and cyclic voltammetry, who will be involved mainly in AFM/STM CV studies and NCF growth, and Dr. Ivan Khalakhan, involved in research relative to coating processes, EBL and TF analysis by AFM and SEM/FIB. Four PhD students will be working on model catalysts (Mr. Roman Fiala, Mr. Martin Dubau, Mr. Stanislav Haviar, Ms. Jaroslava Lavkova) and one technician to maintain and operate the FC station and the deposition facilities. The project team will be supported by the rest of the PI’s group, which currently consists of 4 Associate and 1 Assistant Professors, 4 Senior Researchers, 18 PhD and 8 Master students.

The following equipment available will be used for the project activities: 3 XPS devices combining different experimental techniques (Photoelectron Diffraction, XPD; Angle Resolved UPS; Ion Scattering Spectroscopy, LEIS; Low Energy Electron Diffraction (I-V), LEED; Reflection High Energy Electron Diffraction, RHEED; Molecular Beam Epitaxy, MBE; Thermal Desorption Spectroscopy, TDS); Secondary Ion Mass Spectroscopy, SIMS; dual-beam High Resolution Scanning Electron Microscope (FEG SEM) with Focused Ion Beam, FIB, Gas Injection System, GIS and EDX; HR FEG SEM/EDX equipped for electron beam lithography, EBL; UHV low temperature STM system; FTIR spectrometer; Flow microreactor; Multimode air operated AFM; magnetron sputtering deposition systems and fuel cell test station. Furthermore, the group operates the synchrotron radiation PES beamline – Materials Science Beamline (MSB) at Elettra Trieste. The versatile MSB is suitable for experiments in materials science, surface physics, catalysis and adsorbed organic molecules on various surfaces. The ability to tune the photon energy over a wide range (22-1000 eV) offers PES with high energy resolution and allows resonant photoemission, near edge X-ray absorption fine structure spectroscopy and angular resolved photoemission studies.