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The aim of my research is a fundamental understanding of catalytic reactions under realistic conditions and involves development and use of a combination of synchrotron based techniques and in-house setups. This allows for investigations of structure, morphology and activity of novel model catalysts under working conditions, providing a new view on catalysis for industrially important reactions.
A catalyst is a compound that speeds up a chemical reaction without being consumed by the process. Industrial catalysts are extremely complex systems and very difficult to study on a fundamental level. Consequently, most catalyst development is based on a trial-and-error approach, while a fundamental understanding of the reactions has fallen behind. As surface scientists, in order to investigate catalytic reaction on the atomic level, we turn our attention to perfect single crystal surfaces, that are investigated under ultra-high vacuum conditions. These conditions are, however, very different from those under which real industrial catalysts work. Hence, in order to bridge the gap between surface science and industrial catalysis, we complement our traditional surface science studies with studies of single crystals under realistic pressures of reactants as well as model catalysts of higher complexity. The connection to industry is completed through a close collaboration with the Competence Centre in Catalysis at Chalmers, Göteborg.
As a highlight of my research, we developed the use of high-energy surface X-ray diffraction for fast surface structure determinations [J. Gustafson et al., Science 343 (2014) 758-761], which enables detailed investigations of catalytic surfaces while the reaction is running under realistic conditions.