The Faculty of Applied Engineering has a new doctor! Dr. Sander Neukermans defended his doctoral thesis on the 30th of September, with professor Tom Breugelmans and doctor Jonas Hereijgers as promotors. The doctoral thesis is titled 'Towards a targeted optimization of electrocatalysts by combining electrosynthesis with in-situ electron paramagnetic resonance'.
The capacity of renewable energy sources is steadily increasing. Together with the declining interest in fossil fuel, this generates opportunities for using electricity to power industrial processes. A chemical production process can be replaced by an electrochemical synthesis process with direct energy supply from a renewable source without inefficient energy conversions. The economic usefulness of such a process is then determined by the activation energy of the electrochemical reaction.
Electrocatalysts can be introduced to reduce this energy demand. However, predictions about the catalytic activity of a material are not straightforward and their development mostly goes through trial and error.
In his PhD thesis, dr. Neukermans focusses on the development and use of cells and electrodes to perform electrolysis experiments inside an EPR (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance) spectrometer. During electrolysis, electrons are exchanged between molecules in solution and electrodes. EPR exploits the presence of unpaired electrons to identify the species formed after the electron transfer by applying a magnetic field. The combination of these techniques can elucidate the reaction mechanism for the used electrocatalyst and their development can be improved and sped up. This method will lead to a more efficient use of renewable energy.