A Photo Reactor

ERC Advanced Grant

2014 - 2019



The project is built on the core idea to use an ensemble of multiple level self-organization processes to create a next generation photocatalytic platform to drastically enhance efficiency and selectivity of photocatalytic reactions, and enable a high number of organic synthetic reactions to be carried out economically (and ecologically) via combined catalytic/photocatalytic pathways.

Catalyst/photocatalyst assemblies, combined with nanoscale precision, are being investigated to provide a massive step ahead in photocatalytic applications such as direct solar hydrogen generation, pollution degradation (incl. CO2 decomposition), N2 fixation, or photocatalytic organic synthesis. Besides, the realization of an entirely new generation of 100% depoisoning, anti-aggregation catalysts with substantially enhanced catalyst life-time is also targeted.

For this, a series of self-assembly processes on the mesoscale will be used to create highly uniform arrays of catalyst-particle-in-a-TiO2-cavity. Catalytic features of, for example, metal or alloy nanoparticles, can ideally interact with the photocatalytic properties of the TiO2 cavities. The cavity can be optimized for optical and electronic properties by doping and band-gap engineering; the geometry of the TiO2 host can be tuned to the range of a few nm.

In photocatalytic/catalytic reactions, this nanoscopic design will lead to a radical change in the controllability of length and time-scales (reactant, charge carrier and ionic transport in the substrate). The nanoscale assembly principles used in this project will be explored also with focus on their scalability, to create square meters of nanoscopically ordered catalyst surfaces. We target to demonstrate the feasibility of the implementation of these nanoscale principles in a prototype macroscopic reactor.

Summary of output

Overall, by the ERC grant, exceptional scientific visibility and world leading position in the field of self-ordered metal oxide 1D nanostructures and their applications could be established. This is evident from the impact in various scientific fields of the ca. 110 papers produced in this project, which were cited so far more than 3300 times, and by the large amount of received worldwide applications to join our lab as well as by a remarkable number of visiting researchers (PhD students, Postdocs and also Professors on sabbatical) being guest members of the lab and of the ERC project.
In view of promoting first class scientific leaders, several members of the A Photo Reactor team established meanwhile faculty positions.
In the frame of the ERC project a high number of collaborations were strengthen or established ex-novo, both at the national and international levels. Such academic collaborations, particularly within the Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg, were also intensified by our partnership in several funded topical clusters, joint projects and research consortia such as the DFG Cluster of Excellence, Medical Valley and FunCOS, as well as in the preparation of the DFG joint proposals EMBECS and FUMIN.
Various industry collaboration with leading European companies could be established in high tech fields. Some findings with high potential for knowledge transfer to industrial sectors were or are being explored in collaboration with Toyota Motor Europe (next generation fuel cells) or De Nora Italy (efficient and stable catalytically active electrodes).