A main challenge in today's catalysis research is to study the processes at molecular level while running at realistic conditions. Method development is an inGAP focus area targeted towards state-of-the-art in situ techniques. In addition, new methods for making and studying model systems receive high priority.
ESRF in Grenoble, where inGAP has been a leading contributor to the building of in situ equipment.
Scientists are trying to find out in detail which reactions take place during industrial processes and with this knowledge we want to design more active and stable catalyst materials. Common industrial processes such as the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and the methanol to olefins process operate at demanding pressures and temperatures. Not long ago, the only way to study these catalyst systems was restricted to ex situ characterisation methods. These are not necessarily reliable since their behaviour and chemical state is highly dependant on the reaction environment. For example, cobalt metal particles can be re-oxidised when exposed to air. In situ methods offer the possibility to work with sample environments where the reaction conditions can be reproduced (i.e. high temperature, reaction gas mixture and also high pressures). InGAP has invested in advanced equipment for further development and refinement of a wide range of techniques which allow scientists to get information on different aspects of catalyst structure, such as the nature of crystalline phases, sizes of metal and oxide nanoparticles, and the oxidation state of the atoms in the catalysts. Synchrotron-based X-ray techniques are directly combined with more conventional methods, such as Raman and infrared spectroscopy.
The main characterisation methods used by inGAP are XRD (X-ray diffraction), XAS (X-ray absorption spectroscopy), diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier-transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and microcalorimetry. The centre has also a strong emphasis on advanced synthesis methods such as atomic layer chemical vapour deposition (ALCVD).
inGAP has been a leading contributor to the building of in situ equipment at the Swiss-Norwegian Beam Line (SNBL) at ESRF in Grenoble. It is now possible to study the surface reactions on the catalyst at high temperature, high pressure and with a reactant gas flow.