RII Track-4: In Situ and Surface Sensitive Characterization of Fe-Ni(OH)2 Bimetallic Catalysts

Project: Research project

Project Details


Non-technical Description

Several important next-generation energy conversion technologies (e.g., fuel cells and batteries) are based on electrochemistry, where a metal-based catalyst is used to promote a desired electrochemical reaction. Today, many of the catalysts used are comprised of precious metals, such as platinum, and there is a need to replace these precious metals with more abundant alternatives, such as nickel. This project aims to address a critical gap in fundamental knowledge of the surface chemistry of iron-doped nickel catalysts that operate in electrochemical environments. This research will advance knowledge of electrochemistry and benefit energy technology development. This project also provides a unique opportunity for the PI and a graduate student to visit a premier research facility at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas to learn new scientific knowledge and establish long-term productive research partnerships.

Technical Description

Nickel-based catalysts have long been thought to be well-understood and highly useful for a wide range of electrochemical applications, but a detailed understanding of bimetallic iron-nickel electrocatalysts is now needed. The overall goal of this fellowship is to establish a long-term collaboration between the University of Arkansas (UA), and its activities in materials synthesis, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), which is one of the premier soft x-ray spectroscopy sites in the world. The specific research goal of this proposal is to use soft x-ray spectroscopy to conduct a detailed, surface sensitive characterization study of a suite of iron-nickel oxide/hydroxide bimetallic thin film and nanoparticle catalysts. The research objectives are to: (1) perform experiments to evaluate the surface chemistry and electronic structure (including the conduction band, the valence band, and the d-band structure) of synthesized catalysts under ultra-high vacuum (UHV) and as a function of applied potential in an electrochemical environment with soft x-ray spectroscopy techniques; and (2) learn the fundamental physics theory that supports experimental soft x-ray spectroscopy; and (3) develop skills to analyze and evaluate data obtained from soft x-ray experiments. The scientific research of this project is expected to advance fundamental understanding of iron-nickel catalyst surface chemistry, thereby enabling accelerated catalyst development for the entire electrocatalysis field. The long-term relationship developed between UA and UNLV is expected to enhance the research activities, expertise, and education of the PI and the UA scientific community as a whole, thereby creating a more vibrant, scientifically competitive, and economically prosperous State of Arkansas.

Effective start/end date9/15/178/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $267,507.00


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