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Dynamics of nanomaterials for electrochemical energy systems

Electrochemistry in a transmission electron microscope to study electrochemical nanomaterials at work?


The Volkswagen Foundation is supporting Prof. Dr. Anna Fischer from the Institute of Inorganic and Analytical Chemistry at the University of Freiburg as part of its "Momentum" funding initiative. Fischer will receive 950 000€ over five years for her research on electrocatalysts and electrodes. The funding will enable the chemist to establish a new investigation method at the University of Freiburg, namely electrochemical transmission electron microscopy. Fischer and her team will use this method to carry out electrochemical experiments under the electron microscope and observe how nanomaterials such as catalysts for fuel cells change under electrochemical conditions. Fischer will use the method to better understand materials that can convert or store energy. With "Momentum - Funding for First Professionals", the foundation supports professors who want to strategically develop their research focus three to five years after their first lifetime appointment to a professorship.

How materials and electrodes behave in these conversion processes depends on their composition, structure and surface properties. But the size of their particles also influences how they work. In order to investigate and understand electrochemical materials with the desired properties on the nanometer scale, Fischer uses what is known as transmission electron microscopy. Fischer and her team have so far used this method to statically investigate the materials developed in their working group on the nanometer scale with regard to their structure and 2-D and 3-D morphology. With funding from the Volkswagen Foundation, Fischer will establish the electrochemical version of transmission electron microscopy (EChem-STEM) at the University of Freiburg. The method enables electrochemical experiments to be carried out on nanomaterials in microcells in the electron microscope that are transparent to electron beams. The method enables the researchers to observe how the nanomaterials change their structure and composition under conditions similar to those found under real operation. This knowledge makes it possible to understand the ageing processes of materials that make up electrochemical energy systems. Based on this knowledge, Fischer develops robust alternatives that ensure the longevity of these systems.

The new insights gained by the researcher will be incorporated into her work at the
Freiburg Materials Research Centre (FMF) and in particular at the Freiburg Centre for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies (FIT). There, Fischer heads up the Core Facility "Imaging of Material Systems". In addition, Fischer's findings will complement the research on energy-autonomous material systems in the Living, Adaptive and Energy-autonomous Materials Systems (livMatS) excellence cluster at the University of Freiburg, of which Fischer is a member.


Funding Period: 5 years

Start: 2021



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