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Design of novel high performance catalysts and biosensors based on deposited mass-selected clusters assisted by computational theoretical screening

Final Report Summary - CATSENSE (Design of novel high performance catalysts and biosensors based on deposited mass-selected clusters assisted by computational theoretical screening)

1 January 2014-31 December 2017
ITN Marie Curie Initial Training Network No. 607417

CATSENSE was a multidisciplinary Innovative Training Programme funded by the FP7 program of the European Commission whose goals were to design novel high performance catalysts and biosensors based on gas-phase metal clusters and train interdisciplinary young researchers in nanotechnology.

1. KU LEUVEN, Belgium (Coordinator Prof. Peter Lievens, Manager Dr. Didier Grandjean)
2. UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM, UK (Prof. Richard Palmer, Prof. Wolfgang Theis)
3. TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF DENMARK, Denmark (Prof. Ib Chorkendorff)
4. UNIVERSITY OF MILANO-BICOCCA, Italy (Prof. Gianfranco Pacchioni)
5. TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY, Israel (Prof. Yosi Shacham-Diamand)
6. UNIVERSITY OF MILAN, Italy (Prof. Paolo Milani)
7. TEER COATINGS LTD, United Kingdom (Dr. Kevin Cooke and Dr. Jinlong Yin)


CATSENSE employed 13 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) and 2 Experienced Researchers (ERs) (480 researcher-month) of 10 different nationalities with backgrounds in Physics, Chemistry, Nanotechnology with a gender balance of 34% Female, 66% Male.

The innovative concept of CATSENSE was to consider cluster science as a new emerging supra-disciplinary field bridging different sectors of nanotechnology. Merging (electro) catalysis directly applicable to fuel cell technology and biosensing technologies based on metal clusters has created a synergy that may contribute to reduce the fragmentation of the nanotechnology sector in Europe and accelerate the discovery pace of novel high performance nanomaterials. This multi-disciplinary project based on a strong collaboration between the public and the private sector has utilized a unique combination of very advanced cluster deposition sources as well as in situ characterization techniques.

The main S&T objective of CATSENSE was to design novel high performance catalysts and biosensors by a new interactive approach combining:

• Production of mono- and bi-metallic gas-phase clusters of controlled homogeneity,
• Extensive characterization of their morphology, structure (ex and in situ) and optical properties
• Theoretical modelling and screening,
• Catalytic and biosensing laboratory tests.
• Prototyping of the most promising catalyst and biosensor in realistic operative conditions through intense collaboration with our industrial partners.

The main training objective of Catsense was to delivered nanotechnology experts with multi-level interdisciplinary and intersectorial skills corresponding to the need of the job market. CATSENSE has achieved its main objective through 6 research work packages, complemented by training and management work packages.

The successful outcome of the project was based on a strong collaboration between the 6 academic and 4 industrial partners supported by 8 Supervisory Board meetings organized every 6 months, a large interdisciplinary and an extensive intersectorial secondment scheme (66 person months). Main scientific results achieved are:

• Exploration phase. Work packages 1, 2 have allowed the production of monometallic and bimetallic Au, Ag, Pt, Pd, Mo, Cu, Ni, Fe, Ti -based gas-phase mono and bimetallic clusters using different types of complementary Cluster Beam Deposition systems and their deposition on a large variety of supports while their extensive characterization was carried out by a unique combination of advanced techniques.
• Computational modeling and screening. Work Package 3 has extensively developed the theoretical understanding of the electronic and catalytic properties of few-atom clusters and nanorods of Au, Ag, Ru deposited on various oxide supports BaO,TiO2, Al2O3, ZrO2.
• Catalysts and Biosensors tests. Work Packages 4 and 5 have demonstrated the exceptional (electro)catalytic properties of several types of cluster modified electrodes and clusters deposited onto graphite, oxide surfaces and powders. Highly sensitive biosensors and (electro)catalysts for fuel-cell applications based on mass-selected mono and bi-metallic Au, Pt, Ni clusters have been developed.
• Prototyping of a Catalyst and a Biosensor. Work Package 6 has allowed prototyping an integrated microfluidics biosensor customized to detect organophosphate and novel catalysts for fuel cell applications.

• 3 summer schools on nanoclusters properties and applications in Catalysis and Biotechnology that have attracted a total of 60 external researchers have been organized in Bruges, Belgium (09/2015), Varese, Italy (09/2016) and Leuven, Belgium (09/2017)
• 4 workshops on career and private sector skills with a strong involving of private companies have been organized in Droitwich, UK (11/2015), Leuven, Belgium (03/2016;09/2017)
• 4 Lab courses on nanocluster characterization techniques have been organized in Birmingham, UK(11/2014), Tel Aviv, Israel (05/2015), Leuven, Belgium (03/2016-09/2017) and Lyngby, Denmark (06/2016)

• A total of 34 publications have been published in peer-reviewed journals
• More than 10 additional contributions are currently submitted or in preparation
• Catsense fellows have participated in 45 international conferences and 12 workshops (outside Catsense) where they presented a poster or an oral contribution.
• Catsense fellows have taken part into 30 real life outreaching events and multiple contributions to scientific blogs (lowspin at and social media LinkedIn and Facebook.
• Catsense website at that has centralized the network information, the ESR/ERs recruitments and the registrations for the network events has reached 72000 page views from 13700 users (in majority from Belgium, Russia, USA, Italy, UK and India) since the website creation.

From an industrial point of view Catsense has allowed identifying cases where clusters significantly outperform other existing technologies in the fast growing markets of energy and biosensing, which can bring the Catsense novel approach closer to real applications and production standards, in order to move closer to a roadmap. Catsense fellows developed excellent communication skills, high level interdisciplinary training, expertise in working with very sensitive technical equipment and resilience to work under pressure, that were strongly appreciated by Catsense Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), and will be an excellent asset in their future professional careers. Based on their strong expertise built during this project, Catsense partners are now actively developing new collaborative research networks with industrial partners.