Ib Chorkendorff receives EU’s most prestigious research grant for work with catalysts

Monday 31 Jul 17


Ib Chorkendorff
DTU Physics
+45 45 25 31 70
Professor Ib Chorkendorff, DTU Physics, has been awarded a prestigious Advanced Grant from the ERC (European Research Council) for his work in developing new catalysts that can contribute to a fossil-free future.

Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power are to an ever greater extent supplying our energy and electricity. However, we have not yet developed processes to help us find alternatives to the many other products which are currently being produced using fossil fuels. The reason for this is that the right catalysts which can contribute to creating sustainable chemicals, plastics, and fertiliser using solar and wind energy have not yet been developed.

Ib Chorkendorff has now received EUR 2.5 million to generate new basic insight into the catalytic effect in a range of inorganic materials. Recent research has revealed a hole in our knowledge in this area.

“I hope we can achieve a breakthrough in catalysis research by focusing on new materials of simple inorganic oxides, sulphides, and phosphides which no one has previously looked at. These materials are known in catalysis, but my theory is that by turning our attention to very small clusters of these materials—typically from individual atoms and up to 1-2 Nm sized clusters—we can achieve novel effects. I want to produce such clusters and add a new atom to the chemical mixture ratio to see whether it can create a completely different type of reaction pathway that gives us a better opportunity for control and thus prevent the large energy losses we experience in our current reactions,” explains Professor Chorkendorff.

When research moves into uncharted territory, it is initially essential to purchase and optimize new equipment for the production of selected clusters where you can manage element composition at the atomic level. This apparatus and the five PhD students and 5 postdocs working on the project will be affiliated with the Villum Center for the Science of Sustainable Fuels and Chemicals, which is located at DTU and headed by Ib Chorkendorff.

The new basic research will be implemented over the coming five years and will hopefully give us knowledge that will bring us closer to a fossil-free future.

“But all the low-hanging fruit has long since been picked, so the coming research must be categorized as high-risk. I think that it will provide a breakthrough in catalysis research, but we are entering unchartered territory so there is no guarantee—unfortunately. One guarantee that I can give, however, is that we will be scientifically enlightened,” says Ib Chorkendorff.

ERC Advanced Grant

The ERC Advanced Grant is an extraordinary mark of recognition and is awarded to leading and established researchers, who—with the support of the grant funding—can conduct pioneering high-risk research.

This year, no fewer than five ERC Advanced Grants were awarded to Denmark. Two grants went to DTU researchers, one to the University of Copenhagen, and one to Aarhus University. Thus, a total of 49 Danish researchers have been awarded the grant.

Read more at Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science—or from the European Research Council.

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