Research - The Big Picture

The Network Projects 

Engineered Nickel Catalysts for Electrochemical Clean Energy (Ni Electro Can)

The Ni Electro Can project, led by Prof. Gregory Jerkiewicz, aims to tackle Canadian and global challenges associated with declining reservers of non-renewable energy sources, environmental pollution, greenhouse gas production and related societal issues.

Electrochemistry offers environmentally benign methods to generate and use renewable electrical energy, such as on-demand production of hydrogen, which can be used for energy storage or as a fuel for energy production in hydrogen fuel cells. Electrochemical processes can also conver inexpensive organic compounds into value-added chemicals while co-generating electricity.

This project responds to Canadian and global enery needs by proposing innovative and paradigm shifting research into new materials for alkaline electrochemical technologies. Canadian researchers of the Ni Electro Can team, together with international collaborators and industrial partners, will develop a platform to prepare, evaluate and test new classes of Ni-based materials and anion exchange membranes (AEM) that will enable innovation in alkaline waiter electrolysis and fuel cells, and will perform transformative research on electrochemical glycerol conversion into value-added products. The team comprises highly accomplished scientists and engineers working in the areas of chemistry, physics, electrochemistry, catalysis, analytical chemists, surface and materials science and theory and modelling from 7 Canadian universities and institutions in Brazil, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Norway and the US.

Research themes:
The main areas of technology development for the project are the design and preparation of nano- and meso-structured Ni and polymer materials for:
(i) H2 production through alkaline water electrolysis (AWE);
(ii) cost-effective and efficient electrical energy production in Alkaline Fuel Cells (AFCs); and
(iii) electrochemical glycerol value-added transformations (GVATs).

For more information, please visit the project website.

Catalysis Research for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells (CARPE-FC)

 

 

The Catalysis Research for Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cells (CaRPE-FC) Network is a Pan-Canadian academic network with active participation from 8 universities, 4 subject matter experts (SMEs), an industry association and 3 government departments.The network focuses on developing fundamental understanding of topics in electrocatalysis and transport phenomena in catalyst layers for polymer electrolyte fuel cell, with an aim to lower the amount of platinum group metal (PGM) requirements. The network comprises of a multi-disciplinary team of 20 researchers from universities and government laboratory across Canada. The research team is working together in close collaboration with the participating industry partners. Dr.Jerkiewicz research group focuses on fundamental understanding of Pt activity and stability.

For more information, please visit the project website.

The Research Themes

Hydrogen Electrochemistry

Our society requires renewable energy sources and, in that regards, hydrogen is the ultimate fuel >> Hydrogen economy.

Electrochemical production of hydrogen through water electrolysis (water supplies are literally unlimited) provides a means of storing electrical energy. Such produced hydrogen can be used in fuel cells to generate electricity and heat. We have been conducting research in hydrogen electrochemistry for over 15 years. Our efforts are related to:

(i) electrochemical hydrogen generation (water electrolysis);
(ii) hydrogen storage (pressurized or liquid hydrogen, organic hydrides); and
(iii) hydrogen utilization (fuel cells, electrocatalytic hydrogenation).

Because electrochemical reactions utilize electrical energy generated via renewable means (hydro electricity, wind power, solar energy, etc.), by their very nature electrochemistry is environmentally friendly and falls into the category of green science and technology.

Electrocatalysis

An industrial-scale electrochemical process is a sequence of atomic level events. We study mechanism and kinetics of electrochemical processes at the atomic/molecular level. We explore alternative reaction pathways and design means of controlling their rates (enhancement = catalysis; reduction = inhibition).

Electro-dissolution of Platinum

Platinum is one of the most important electrocatalysts. Despite its great corrosion resistance and mechanical stability, it undergoes dissolution under electrochemical conditions >> Electro-dissolution.
This is of extreme importance to fuel cells which contain supported Pt nanoparticles at which electrochemical reactions take place. We study Pt electro-dissolution in relation to the potential, exposure time and electrolyte composition conditions.

Electrochemical Surface and Materials Science

Electrochemistry provides means of assembling atoms and molecules into functional materials (electrodeposition, electroless deposition, electrochemically driven self-assembly) and means of assessing the stability of materials as a function of pH and E (Pourbaix diagrams) over long periods of time (corrosion science). We study electrochemical formation of thin layers at the atomic level (electrochemical nano-science and nano-technology) and the formation of metallic oxides. We study electro-oxidation (corrosion) with the objective of gaining molecular-level understanding of the processes. 

Reseach Projects - Details of On-going Projects

Our research focuses on the atomic/molecular level understanding of electrochemical processes taking place at the electrode surface or within its 3-dimensional matrix. Our group develops new experimental methodologies and advances existing experimental techniques. Some of the on-going projects are as follows:

  • Under-potential deposistion of H (UPD H) in the absence/presence of inorganic and organic surface modifiers (catalysts or inhibitors)

  • Interfacial thermodynamics of the under-potential deposition of H, Ag and Cu on M(hkl) electrodes, where M = Pt, Au

  • Adsorption and electrocatalytic hydrogenation of unsaturated organic compounds at Pt(hkl) and Cu(hkl) electrodes

  • Electro-oxidation and electro-dissolution of Pt, Pd, Ni and Fe

  • Electro-dissolution of Pt-based electrocatalysts in acidic media mimicking PEM fuel-cell conditions

  • Materials science and electrochemical characterization of Ni foams

  • Application of micrometric and nanometric Ni foams

  • Electrochemical quartz-crystal nano-balance (EQCN) and its application to the study of electrochemical interfacial phenomena

  • Growth and dissolution of surface oxides at transition metal electrodes (Pt, Au, Pd, Rh, Ni, Fe)

  • Electrochemical preparation of colored passive layers on Ti, Zr, and Ti-containing alloys

  • Biocompatible Ti-based materials and their applications in orthodontics

  • Bio-corrosion of Ti-based alloys

Originality and Outstanding Accomplishments

We pursue in parallel several research avenues. Some projects are "safe", some are more experimentally or theoretically demanding, while some might challenge existing paradigms and produce grounbreaking results or can even lead to discoveries. Some of the most original and outstanding accomplishments of our group are as follows:

  • We were the first group to perform very demanding temperature-dependent research on single-crystal Pt electrodes with the objective of determining thermodynamic state functions (DGads°, DSads°, DHads°) for UPD H and the Pt-HUPD surface bond energy (EM-Hupd); this line of research was extended to other metals and surface-modified Pt(hkl) electrodes; in order to determine thermodynamic state functions for UPD H, we developed new theoretical methodology

  • We performed very comprehensive research on the electrochemical growth of surface oxides on Pt, Rh, Pd, Au and Ni; we were the first group to apply the theories developed by N. F. Mott (Nobel Prize for Physics, 1977) and B. E. Conway to surface oxides in order to determine important kinetic and mechanistic parameters; our group advanced the theoretical treatment originally proposed by B. E. Conway

  • Our group designed a unique cell for the electrochemicall quartz-crystal nanobalance (EQCN) that allows one to study the mass variations associated with interfacial phenomena in unprecedented detail; the mass detection limit (currently at ~200 pg cm-2) and improved vibration isolation system even allow one to monitor sub-monolayer quantities of oxides and mass changes during UPD H

  • Our group has performed comprehensive research on the electro-oxidation of Pt using EQCN, CV and Auger electron spectroscopy (AES); the outcome of this research indicates that OHads is not involved in the process and that the electro-oxidation of Pt leads directly to anhydrous PtO

  • Our group has developed a unique method of forming brightly colored passive layers on Ti, Zr and Ti-based alloys; we discovered that the coloration can be switched reversibly (the first ever electrochemical multi-color switching effect)

Research Support - Current and Recent Funding

1. NSERC, Discovery Grant - Individual, "Interfacial Electrochemistry and Electrocatalysis: Understanding and Directing Electrochemical Phenomena at the Molecular Level", Principal Investigator; 2012 - 2017.

2. NSERC, Automotive Partnership Canada, “Strategic Network in Low-Pt PEMFC Research”, Co-Applicant (project led by Prof. S. Holdcroft, SFU); 2011 – 2016. 

3. NSERC, Strategic Research Grant, “Design and Integration of Nanostructured Catalyst Layers for PEM Fuel Cells”, Co-Applicant (project led by Prof. M. Eikerling, SFU); 2009 – 2012.

4. Nissan Motor Company, Research Grant, “Investigation of Catalyst Degradation Mechanisms Under Simulated PEMFC Automotive Conditions: Contribution Towards Enhanced Durability, Extended Lifetime and Reduced Cost of PEMFC Stacks”, Principal Investigator; 2010 – 2013.

5. NSERC, Research Tools and Instruments – Category 1, “Electrochemistry Instrumentation for Research on Materials, Interfaces, Electrocatalysts, Photovoltaics and Aqueous Corrosion”, Principal Investigator; 2011 – 2012.

 6. Canada Foundation for Innovation and Ministry of Research and Innovation, Ontario, Leaders Opportunity Fund, “Infrastructure for the Search of Quantum Entanglement in Electrochemical Phenomena Involving Hydrogen”, Principal Investigator; 2008 – 2009