Atomic scale imaging and local spectroscopy of CeO2 - London, UK

Institution: University College London

Dept/School/Faculty: London Centre for Nanotechnology PhD

Supervisor: Prof G Thornton Application

Deadline: Applications accepted all year round Funding

Availability: Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

The aim of this four-year PhD project is to provide an understanding of the chemical physics of single-crystalline CeO2 in relation to hydrogen production. The nature of the metal/oxide interface plays an essential role in determining technological functionality of a material and there are a number of contentious issues relating to these interfaces that need to be addressed, including the role of the strength of the interaction in heterogeneous catalysis. For example, the activity and the selectivity of supported Au catalysts for the water gas shift reaction (CO + H2O⟶H2 + CO2) have been reported to depend on the type of metal-oxide support. Because the active metal-support interface is often observed to be a better catalyst than the transition metal alone, the traditional view that this is a transition metal catalysed reaction is being re-evaluated. This is the area of the project, for which Au/ceria system is chosen specifically on the basis of its importance for the energy agenda--the water gas shift reaction provides a clean source of hydrogen for fuel cells. This project will focus on the growth and reactivity of Au grown on CeO2(111) as studied by STM. CeO2 is insulating at room temperature, which makes it difficult to study with surface science methods. While it is possible to measure STM images and record other spectroscopic data at elevated temperatures, this is of limited value when metal growth and reactivity are of prime interest. The approach adopted here would involve the study of ultra-thin films of CeO2(111) grown epitaxially on a single crystal metal substrate, namely Pt(111). Previous work in the Thornton group has shown that it is possible to grow a continuous film of three tri-layers of CeO2(111) on Pt(111) using reactive deposition in an atomic oxygen source.

More information about this research can be found on the web at http://www.chem.ucl.ac.uk/nanoscience/ This research forms part of the work of the London Centre for Nanotechnology http://www.london-nano.com/ Funding Notes: Applicants should be an EU national (including the UK) and have at least a 2.1 MSci in physics, chemistry, or a related discipline (or the equivalent from a non-UK university). The PhD stipend at UCL in 2011/12 will be £15590 (tax and fees paid). For further information contact Professor Geoff Thornton (g.thornton@ucl.ac.uk)

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