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Bimetallic catalyst knowledge-based development for energy applications

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - BIKE (Bimetallic catalyst knowledge-based development for energy applications)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2021-03-31

Hydrogen has been identified as one of the energy vector suitable for the decarbonisation of mobility, and several domestic heating, and energy-intensive industrial sectors.

However, hydrogen can not be extracted from wells or from the atmosphere, but can only be obtained from different raw materials by different processes. Depending on the raw material(s) and the process employed for its production, hydrogen is usually classified as brown (grey), blue, and green. Brown hydrogen is produced along with CO2 emissions, usually starting from fossil-derived raw materials, blue hydrogen relies on the same process as brown hydrogen, along with carbon capture and storage (CCS), thus decreasing CO2 emissions. Finally, green hydrogen is carbon-free since obtained from renewable raw materials (even water) and renewable energy.

Whatever the color of hydrogen, more and more efficient processes, suitable for a pool of different and variable starting raw materials, are highly desirable. BIKE project focuses on the development of the next generation of bimetallic catalysts. Bimetallic catalysts are promising materials since the synergy between two metals can lead to enhanced catalytic performance since the modification of monometallic catalysts with secondary metals could enhance catalyst activity, selectivity, and stability.

The BIKE approach is applied to three different industrially relevant green and blue hydrogen production processes: A) Steam Reforming of bio-gas/bio-methane; B) Aqueous Phase Reforming of Liquid Renewable Feedstocks; and C) Anion Exchange Membrane Water Electrolysis. These applications have been selected due to their importance in sustainable hydrogen production, and to test and validate the next generation bimetallic catalysts under different conditions (i.e. high, medium, and room temperature; steam, SC water, and alkaline media, vide infra), allowing to exploit and validate the reliability of the next generation bimetallic catalysts derived by the BIKE.

In BIKE we propose a novel approach based on the combination of enabling state-of-the-art tools, predictive modelling, advanced characterization, knowledge based design innovative catalyst preparation, and explorative testing, in a single methodology to fully exploit the added value of bimetallic catalysts in a synergistic way. Consequently, BIKE next generation bimetallic catalysts are expected to exhibit superior performance by design.
Moreover, BIKE will train 14 young scientists to master and to combine the various state-of-the-art and emerging methodologies for the rational development of bimetallic catalysts to improve current hydrogen production processes and, finally, to implement them in an industrial context.
During the first reporting period (1 Apr 2019 – 31 Mar 2021) of the BIKE project two important phases have been completed, necessary for the correct deployment of further research and training activities: set-up of an efficient and transparent project governance and recruitment of the early stage researchers.

All the research and training activities started, and many of the tasks have been performed reaching the planned goals within the period, even if the lock-down and mobility restrictions, due to COVID19 pandemics, from Mar 2020 have a negative impact on several activities and caused a general delay.

BIKE beneficiaries hired 14 early stage researchers (ESRs) and they performed all the research activities, i.e. modeling, synthesis, characterization, and testing with great dedication and already produced promising results which lay the ground for further efforts in developing and completing the planned activities.

Modeling protocols have been developed and we will proceed to comparison and validation by experimental data produced by the BIKE partners.
We performed the synthesis of bimetallic catalysts based on noble or non-noble metals optimized for the three catalytic reactions subject of BIKE obtaining several sets of mono and bi-metallic catalysts.
The key features of several sets of catalysts and/or support materials have been determined. The results provided important pieces of information for the rational development of synthetic approaches. We also realized operando cells and setups able to mimic reactors configuration to study the methane steam reforming and the APR reaction.
Finally, preliminary test of bimetallic catalysts have been performed and the most promising materials, against pre-screening key performances parameters, have been fish out and are currently under optimization.

BIKE ESRs have been involved in both local and network-wide training activities. Five Network-wide Training Events took place: Second International Training School on NanoAlloys and Course on European Projects writing and Applications; Workshop Preparation and characterization of catalysts for hydrogen production, and Course on intellectual properties and Project management; Workshop Catalyst manufacturing; Workshop Catalyst characterization and operando spectroscopy; Workshop Theoretical Approaches to NanoAlloy Catalysis.
Only six secondments have been performed and three have started during 1st reporting period over the planned five started and twenty one completed. The impact of Covid19 pandemics restriction to mobility and the lock-down measures preventing free access to laboratories had a strong impact, even if some secondments have been performed remotely.
In BIKE we propose a novel approach based on the combination of enabling state-of-the-art tools (i.e. predictive modelling, advanced characterization, knowledge based design innovative catalyst preparation, and explorative testing) in a single methodology to fully exploit the added value of bimetallic catalysts in a synergistic way. Consequently, BIKE next generation bimetallic catalysts will exhibit superior performance under realistic conditions by design. In parallel, the explosive growth of blue and green hydrogen production in recent years, due to its importance in the environment and energy fields, has created a strong, urgent need for highly qualified personnel in all the components of both private and public sector. BIKE ITN is designed to address these requirements by providing a team of 14 qualified researchers with a comprehensive and application-oriented knowledge of the H2-field, able to span from preparation to characterization, modelling, industrial applications, and marketing of H2-related catalyst materials, and to interact with all the stakeholders working in the field.

The BIKE framework is built to precisely address these 3 factors. BIKE will progress from the recent breakthrough represented by predictive modelling that allows, in principle, to derive reaction rate of a specific catalyst (i.e. its activity and selectivity) through computational simulations, thereby avoiding time-consuming trial-and-error screening approaches. Very precise experimental determination of catalysts structures not only in their “resting states”, but also under dynamic conditions will contribute to the determination of the structure of bimetallic catalysts. Finally, optimized catalysts will be prepared following the indications of predictive modelling and characterization, using precise, robust and scalable methodologies. The use of preformed bimetallic NPs fulfils these constrains, since it provides NPs with the right size, composition and structure.
BIKE approach for the development of the next generation of bimetallic catalysts for hydrogen produc