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Title: Fundamentals and new applications of electrochemical promotion in catalysis
Author: Williams, Federico Jose
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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Electrochemical promotion (EP) is a new way of controlling catalytic performance. It is implemented by depositing porous thin film metal catalysts on solid electrolyte supports where they act as both a catalyst and a working electrode of an electrochemical cell. The technique entails electrochemical pumping of ions from the solid electrolyte to the surface of the catalytically active metal film with which it is in contact. In short, controlling the potential difference of the electrochemical cell controls the coverage of promoters on the catalyst while a catalytic reaction is taken place. Thus, it provides a unique method for studying promotion in heterogeneous catalysis. My research has focused on elucidating the phenomena that underlie the EP effect. The resulting advances in fundamental understanding have been used to exploit EP as a tool to study alkali promotion in new applications in heterogeneous catalysis and to diversify the catalytic chemistry that can be addressed by EP. Thus, we have used conventional and spatially resolved in situ photoelectron spectroscopic data to demonstrate that EP of thin film metal catalysts deposited on solid electrolyte supports is the result of the spillover phenomena at the three phase boundary between the electrolyte, the catalyst and the gas phase. Ions from the electrolyte are discharged at the catalyst/ electrolyte interface and migrate to cover the catalyst surface whose properties are thereby strongly altered. This is the first time that such advanced spectroscopic techniques have been brought to bear on this fascinating and complex problem. Reactor measurements along with post-reaction photoelectron spectroscopies were used in order to: (i) establish the mechanism of reaction, (ii) determine the mode of promoter action and (iii) identify the chemical state of the promoter phase, in the Na-promoted catalytic control of toxic emissions. Very large increases both in activity and in selectivity of the catalysts were achieved and point the way towards further developments and possible applications. Finally, the use of EP as a mechanistic probe in surface catalysed polymerisation reactions has been demonstrated for the first time, broadening the range of utility of the extraordinary phenomenon of EP.
Supervisor: Lambert, Richard Michael Sponsor: Fundacion YPF ; Fundacion Antorchas ; British Council ; Cambridge Overseas Trust ; Kings College
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Electrochemical Promotion ; Catalysis ; Surface Phenomena