Processing and characterisation of novel self-assembled heterocatalysts

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Chemical Engineering


The aims of this project are to process and characterise self assembled heterocatalysts using a novel technique, known as DNA Origami. This should produce platinum catalysts of the required nanoscale structure with an enhanced stability. The proposed research objectives are:
1. To process and produce self assembled heterocatalysts using DNA strands as the catalyst support in the initial processing stages via a technique known as DNA origami.
2. To convert the DNA support into a carbon based support via a graphitisation process, to make the product properties more suitable for its potential application i.e in fuel cells for the generation of power.
3. To explore the optimisation of the processing method by investigating the influence of process parameters such as temperature, pressure or the type of buffer employed on the final product attributes measured. In addition, improved purification techniques can be studied to increase the final product quality and enable higher product recovery.
4. The final product properties can be measured using appropriate characterisation methods such as X-ray studies, chemisorption techniques (to determine the platinum metal dispersion in structure) and Transmission Electron Microscopy or Scanning Electron Microscopy to observe the morphology of the catalyst structure. The physical and chemical properties of the catalyst product can be measured using spectroscopic techniques like infra-red spectroscopy.
5. The product properties and morphology results can be compared to those of a traditional heterocatalyst and the processing method can be optimised accordingly to enable the establishment of a nano-heterocatalyst product with the desired attributes.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509590/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1934309 Studentship EP/N509590/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2020 Ruba Hendi
Description DNA can be used to control the spacing and precise placement of platinum metal atoms, which improves the utilisation and thus reduces the metal loadings and consequently costs. By processing of the DNA-Platinum nanostructures through heat treatment and electron beam exposures, we can achieve the carbonisation/graphitisation of the material consequently resulting in an improved electrocatalytic response which outperforms that attained with a much higher metal loading. These observations were made for thefor the Hydrogen Evolution Reaction (HER) in an acidic environment of pH 3.
Exploitation Route The project can extended further, by conducting further testings to investigate the nature of the resulting material being made following processing of the DNA via both heat treatment and electron beam irradiation and the mechanisms that follow. The electrocatalytic material can then be assessed for other common electrochemical reactions in fuel cells which rely on bulk platinum for catalysis. Furthermore, the greater interest would be focusing on achieving commercialisation of the material by assessing the feasibility of its implementation i.e durability and stability under/near conditions of a real fuel cell compartment. Additionally, ways to convert the DNA-Platinum films (currently made by casting of aqueous solution) can be explored to make the physical form of the nanomaterial more suited for its intended application i.e in a real fuel cell compartment.
Sectors Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport