With one of NWO's prestigious VIDI personal grants, physicist Andrea Baldi at DIFFER will investigate how light enhances the catalytic performance of metallic nanoparticles. Understanding this effect could lead to applications in energy conversion, pollution mitigation and chemical synthesis.
Noble metal nanoparticles made of gold, silver, and copper are routinely used as catalysts in a wide range of industrial processes. Recently, it has been discovered that shining light on these nanoparticles can significantly improve their catalytic activity and selectivity, but the underlying mechanism is not yet understood. In his proposal entitled "Hot! Hot! Hot! Fundamentals of Plasmon Catalysis", Andrea Baldi will investigate these light-activated reactions and disentangle different physical effects, such as the generation of heat, the production of highly energetic "hot" electrons, or the activation of highly confined fields in so-called "electromagnetic hot spots". Using his VIDI grant, Baldi will be able to tackle this challenge together with two new PhD researchers.
Catalysis is the process of accelerating chemical reactions and it is of paramount importance to today’s society, with applications ranging from energy conversion to fuels, to the synthesis of chemical and the mitigation of exhaust pollutants. Developing radically new methods to influence and control catalysis could therefore have far-reaching implications.