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Surface-functionalised nanocrystal catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide


With an expanding population and finite fossil fuel resources, society faces several major challenges regarding energy and the environment. SURFCAT seeks to address these issues by making advances in the electrochemical carbon-dioxide reduction-reaction (CO2RR), which converts carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels using renewable electrical energy. Whilst copper is the only metal able to produce hydrocarbons in the CO2RR, modifications to pure, bulk copper are required in order to bypass its intrinsic limitations. Copper nanocrystals (CuNCs) offer enhanced activity and selectivity for single products in the CO2RR, yet there is a need to improve these materials further. SURFCAT strives to take advantage of surface modification in order to deliver these improvements. SURFCAT will go beyond the state-of-the-art by modifying the surfaces of CuNCs with functional organic ligands. The objectives of the research will be to: 1) synthesise new organic molecules, judiciously designed to influence favourable interactions between the CuNCs and carbon dioxide; 2) synthesise hybrid CuNCs, consisting of a metallic, nanocrystalline core and a functional ligand shell; 3) study and optimise the electrocatalytic performance of these novel materials; and 4) use spectroscopy and computational modelling to understand their mode of action and offer insight into the role of functional ligands on catalyst surfaces. These objectives will be achieved by combining the applicant’s expertise in steering catalysis through ligand design with the host laboratory’s expertise in nanocrystal synthesis and electrocatalysis. SURFCAT is perfectly aligned with the MSCA Work Programme, combining unique skills and knowledge from both the applicant and the host laboratory. Through training during his time at EPFL, the applicant will develop professional, language and teaching skills on top of his research efforts, in order to become a mobile and World-leading researcher.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/inorganic chemistry/inorganic compounds
  • /engineering and technology/nanotechnology/nano-materials/nanocrystal
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/organic chemistry/hydrocarbons
  • /natural sciences/chemical sciences/electrochemistry/electrocatalysis

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


Batiment Ce 3316 Station 1
1015 Lausanne
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 191 149,44