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advanced Light mIcroscopy for Green cHemisTry

Final Report Summary - LIGHT (advanced Light mIcroscopy for Green cHemisTry)

The LIGHT project aimed to develop optical microscopy tools and assays that enable clear-cut assignments of the overall catalytic activity of a catalyst material to specific sites or nano-scale features.
In the first half of the project, we have explored how super-resolution fluorescence microscopy can be used to visualize catalytic processes. Specifically, several fluorescence-based assays were successfully developed that allow to directly visualize and measure the catalytic activity at the nanoscale. With these assays we discovered that a seemingly homogeneous batch of catalyst materials contains a large variability in performance when looking at the nanoscale. Several catalytic materials have been studied with this approach and all of them seem to show this variability. Such variability negatively impacts the efficiency of catalysts and needs to be taken into the account in rational catalyst design.
Simultaneously, label-free microscopy based on Raman scattering was explored. This approach does not rely on fluorescent reaction mimics and can potentially study the real (industrial) chemical reactions at the smallest scales as they are happening at the catalyst. A dedicated Raman microscope has been developed based on an existing multiphoton microscope. We successfully showed that Raman microscopy allows to detect the distribution of catalytic sites in acid zeolite catalysts.
At the same time we have developed a novel microscopy tool in collaboration with FEI and Delmic. This integrated electron and super-resolution fluorescence microscope allows to directly link the structure of a catalyst at the nanoscale (from electron microscopy) to its performance (recorded via fluorescence microscopy). The setup is now fully operational and obtained results show that it is possible to link nanoscale structural features of with various acid catalysts and photocatalysts to the local catalytic performance.
With these novel insights and structure-activity relationships generated at the nano-scale current catalyst synthesis can be rationalized and optimized. These more efficient catalysts are crucial in the development of better performing, ‘green’ chemical processes.