Irene Groot

Prof. dr. Irene Groot

Leiden University

Atomic-Scale Imaging of Catalysts under Reaction Conditions


The atomic-scale structure of a catalyst under reaction conditions determines its activity, selectivity, and stability. Recently it has become clear that essential differences can exist between the behavior of catalysts under industrial conditions (high pressure and temperature) and the (ultra)high vacuum conditions of traditional laboratory experiments. These observations made it clear that meaningful results can only be obtained at high pressures and temperatures.
In this talk, I will give an overview of the in situ imaging techniques we use to study the structure of model catalysts under atmospheric pressures and elevated temperatures. We are able to perform atomic-scale investigations of well-defined model catalysts under industrial conditions, using in situ techniques such as scanning tunneling microscopy, atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, surface X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and optical microscopy. Scientific cases that I will discuss are hydrodesulfurization of S-containing organic molecules and graphene growth on liquid copper.


Irene Groot obtained her PhD degree at Leiden University investigating the dissociation of hydrogen on single crystals, both experimentally using supersonic molecular beams and theoretically performing density functional theory and quantum dynamics calculations. After a postdoc at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin, where she studied CO oxidation using scanning tunneling microscopy, she went to the Leiden Institute of Physics with a personal Veni fellowship from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Here she investigated HCl oxidation using scanning tunneling microscopy under reaction conditions, and subsequently started her own group.
Currently, Irene Groot is associate professor (tenured) at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry where she is heading the operando catalysis research group. She investigates the structure-activity relationship of catalysts under industrial conditions using operando scanning probe microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray-based techniques. She focuses on industrial processes related to sustainable energy and materials production. Current topics in her group are hydrodesulfurization, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, methanol steam reforming, automotive catalysis, chlorine production, 2-dimensional materials, and graphene growth on liquid copper. Additionally, she is developing equipment for high-pressure surface science and operando catalysis research.

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