Marc Koper’s interest is mainly in electrocatalysis and electrochemical surface science. Reactions of interest are the oxidation of carbon monoxide, methanol, and ethanol for low-temperature fuel cells, the reduction of nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide in relation to nitrogen cycle electrocatalysis, and the electrocatalytic reduction of carbon monoxide and the oxidation of water in relation to the electrochemical production of fuels. Catalysts of interest are transition metals such as platinum, rhodium and gold (preferably single crystalline) as well as molecular catalysts and small proteins and enzymes adsorbed on electrode surfaces. We use a range of sophisticated electrochemical, spectroscopic and theoretical/computational techniques to scrutinize the molecular mechanisms of these important reactions. Have a look at the “News” and “Publications” section of our website http://casc.lic.leidenuniv.nl for some of the recent work from our group.
Metallic particles are catalysts to most industrial processes. On such particles, small terraces are interrupted by step and kink defects. Although decades of surface science, catalytic and gas-surface dynamics studies have revealed how gases react on smooth surfaces, little is known regarding the importance of steps and kinks to the overall kinetics and selectivity. My research focuses on just that! We use metal single crystal planes as models for real catalyst surfaces, ultrahigh vacuum and surface science technology, and supersonic molecular beam techniques. It’s an exciting area of research whose front runner, Gerhard Ertl, received the Nobel Prize in 2007.
The nanostructure of a catalyst under reaction conditions determines its activity, selectivity, and stability. In my group we use in situ imaging techniques, such as scanning probe microscopy, surface X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and optical microscopy to study this relation under industrially relevant conditions of high pressures and temperatures. With these techniques we are able to simultaneously image the catalytic surface on the nanoscale and measure the reactants and products using mass spectrometry. For the production of sustainable energy and materials, new and better-performing catalysts are needed. To design these catalysts, fundamental insights into reaction mechanisms, structure-activity relationship, and deactivation mechanisms are necessary. To obtain this knowledge we are currently investigating the following industrially relevant chemical reactions: Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, NO oxidation and reduction, hydrodesulfurization, chlorine production, and CO oxidation.
“You have to live from what nature gives you”. What can we learn from nature, especially living nature, as seen by a physical scientist. There is still so much to discover! As a biophysical chemist I am involved in multidisciplinary research into mechanisms of how membrane proteins work. Much is not yet known about these molecular machines in or on cell membranes. New research methods like magic angle spinning NMR in ultra high field, are technological growth areas. For my own research I am mainly interested in photosynthesis, how plants make energy available from light. When we are able to fully understand this, we might be able to make use of a new source of renewable energy, artificial photosynthesis.
The main goal of my research is to achieve the ability to predict the outcome of chemical reactions involving hydrogen from first principles. This goal is important in almost all fields of Chemistry and in many fields of Physics, as well as in Astronomy (Astrochemistry). I am especially interested in reactions of hydrogen on metal surfaces, like Cu, Pt, and Ru. A major question for this topic is how dynamics calculations can test results of new electronic structure methods for reaction barriers. I also want to determine the reaction mechanisms that play a role in clean production of hydrogen, and in hydrogen storage in for instance complex metal hydrides. A nice aspect of the research on production and storage of hydrogen is that it may help bringing about the hydrogen economy, in which energy is produced without emitting CO2.
A sophisticated regulation network in plants and algae prevents them from photodamage, but also sets an upper limit for the production of biomass or biofuels. A major quest is to gain molecular control over this network and push the limit. Photosynthetic light-harvesting proteins are key players here that can switch ‘on and off’ and control how much of the incoming sunlight is used. In a new group in the SSNMR dept, I aim to investigate the plasticity of the involved proteins, atomic-level pigment interactions and the influence of a membrane environment. A research project in my group may involve solid-state NMR and DFT, preparation of protein-reconstituted lipid nanodiscs or development of a cell-free expression system. Hence, there are possibilities for physical, biochemical or molecular-biological oriented students with an interest in bio-energy research.
Redox reactions such as the oxidation of water, reduction of dioxygen, reduction of dinitrogen, reduction of carbon dioxide and activation of methane are key reactions in biology and are potentially very valuable with respect to many applications related to storage of renewable energy and sustainable chemistry. In my group we try to understand these redox processes by studying well defined molecular systems that are inspired by Nature. Control over proton transfer and activation of the substrate via interactions in the 2nd coordination sphere of the active site are important strategies that are followed within the group. These are studied by means of structure reactivity relationship studies, and by applying various physical methods. The group bridges between the CASC and MCBIM groups and projects consist of a combination of physical and synthetic chemistry.
Central in coordination and organometallic chemistry is the synthesis of new chelating ligands, the synthesis and characterization of metal complexes with these ligands, and the study of their properties. The important goal in this research is to understand the relation between the structures and the (catalytic) properties of the metal compounds. This understanding we use to develop sustainable, atom-efficient catalytic reactions that in the future may replace current stoichiometric industrial processes. One challenging topic is for instance: can we develop a new reaction to make nylon using biomass as a feedstock instead of fossil fuels?
Chemical reactions go hand-in-hand with an energy exchange with the environment in which they take place - thus providing or dissipating the concomitant reaction enthalpies for an endo- or exothermic reaction, respectively. Surfaces offer a variety of energy dissipation channels, constituted by the nuclear and electronic degrees of freedom at the interface. For a sustainable future harvesting of energy, i.e. particularly conversion into chemical fuels, a good fundamental understanding of interfacial energy conversion dynamics is of essential importance. In my group we are developing and applying computational methods to model such energy exchange processes, starting from first principles (i.e. usually DFT) and reaching up to many-body (e.g. neural-network- based) interaction potentials. The inherent dynamical nature of this fascinating research topic thus involves a wide range of techniques employed in theoretical chemistry as well as modern material science.
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