Dr. Ing. Peter Amann Department of Physics

Catalyst materials have become of enormous importance to nearly all types of chemical- and manufacturing processes including energy production and utilization. The surface of a catalyst facilitates chemical transformation towards specific products and thus allow lowering of process temperature and pressure, reducing manufacturing costs, making them highly valuable to chemical industry. Intense investigations have led to highly sophisticated catalyst materials. However, to further optimize these materials we need a deeper knowledge on the molecular level, which is still lacking. Existing instruments so-far have often not been able to provide a correct insight what is occurring on the catalyst surface, especially under reaction conditions. X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) is an ideal tool to study molecules at surfaces but is traditionally operated under vacuum conditions and sometimes in the mbar regime.

Peter Amann, researcher at the department of physics, was leading the development of a new XPS instrument that will allow to gain deeper insight into these fundamental processes. The development of this setup was a highly challenging process that took place over the last five years and included several new inventions. Finally, it became very successful. The researchers are now able to investigate model catalytic systems at more realistic conditions, hence pressure exceeding 1 bar and temperatures of several hundred degree centigrade. The Swedish company Scienta Omicron has recently started to commercialize the instrument.

SLAC National accelerator laboratory

Together with Haldor Topsoe A/S, a leading catalyst company, the SU researchers are trying to build up fundamental understanding helping to develop future catalysts.

”Working together with industry is highly stimulating- we are bridging from fundamental science to final products. Both with leading companies in their field, Haldor Topsoe A/S and Scienta Omicron, respectively” says Peter Amann