/Enhancing proton conductivity in mesoporous silica thin films for next generation water electrolyser

Enhancing proton conductivity in mesoporous silica thin films for next generation water electrolyser

Leuven | More than two weeks ago

Surface functionalized thin films for efficient green hydrogen production

With rising energy demands, there is a need for producing green energy. Hydrogen produced via water splitting serves as a promising contender for green energy and has been receiving immense interest globally. In the existing proton-exchange membrane (PEM) technology for hydrogen evolution, Nafion is one of the most used materials for proton (H+) transport. The conductivity of these materials can go up to 0.2 S/cm depending on its thickness and hydration levels. The sulfonic acid groups attached to the polymer matrix of Nafion facilitate the transport of H+ ions via channel formations. In addition, various surface functionalized mesoporous materials with tunable meso-channels can be deliberately designed to tune its proton conductivity by sol-gel chemistry. High surface area mesoporous sol-gel materials with tailored surface functional groups have gained immense interest in the scientific community. An interesting field is the application of surface functionalized mesoporous materials as solid-state electrolyte coatings for energy conversion. Here at IMEC, we have the expertise of synthesizing mesoporous silica thin films via sol-gel (electro)chemistry and surface functionalization via self-assembled monolayers (SAMs). 


In this master thesis, you will work on fabricating mesoporous silica and functionalizing its surface with acidic functional groups to facilitate proton (H+) conduction. Proton conductivity of these functionalized thin films will be evaluated using patterned electrodes. In addition, a model to explain the conductivity in our system will be developed. Characterization techniques such as FTIR, Raman, optical/electron microscopy and impedance spectroscopy will be utilized to acquire data. This master thesis will offer a platform to strengthen your foundations in electrochemistry, research and scientific communication skills and provides an opportunity to be a part of an active research environment at the Electrochemical Energy Conversion team, IMEC. Please feel free to contact venkataramana.rishikesan@imec.be if you have any questions!

Type of project: Thesis

Duration: 7-9 months

Required degree: Master of Science

Required background: Bioscience Engineering

Supervising scientist(s): For further information or for application, please contact: Philippe Vereecken (Philippe.Vereecken@imec.be) and Venkataramana Rishikesan (Venkataramana.Rishikesan@imec.be)

Only for self-supporting students.

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