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ABSTRACT: Industrial catalysts belong to a class of functional materials that play an important role in the sustainable use of natural resources. For the development of improved catalysts and processes, it is of crucial importance to gain atomistic insights about the structure-function relationship in working catalysts. Decades of research in catalysis have demonstrated the difficulty of this task. Challenges are related to the fact that catalysts are operating far from thermodynamic equilibrium in an open system that exchanges heat and matter with the surrounding. For many years, electron microscopy has played an important role in the characterization of catalysts and their precursors. Atomically resolved images of catalyst particles serve as reference for theoretical modelling and have influenced the way in which we depict active sites. However, since high-resolution imaging and local compositional analysis are generally performed under vacuum and close to room temperature, the obtained atomistic details concern an equilibrium state that is of limited relevance for the description of an active catalyst. During the last years, the development of commercial solutions for in situ transmission electron microscopy has enabled experiments under controlled liquid- and gas- environment and strongly enhanced our abilities to study materials under the influence of a physical or chemical stimulus. In my presentation, I will highlight the importance of in situ electron microscopy for catalysis. I will show how we apply a combination of in situ TEM and in situ SEM to study the dynamics of active catalysts under simple redox conditions as well as under industrially relevant reactions, such as methanol oxidation. By bridging the scale from the Å to the mm range and pressures from 10-5 to 10+5 Pa, we are able to reveal the dynamic nature of active catalysts and to bridge the materials and pressure gap between simplified model systems and real-world catalysis.
BIOGRAPHY: Marc Willinger studied physics at the Technical University in Vienna and obtained his PhD from the Technical University in Berlin. After a Post Doc at the Department of Inorganic Chemistry of the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, he moved to the University of Aveiro in Portugal, to work as independent researcher. In 2010, he took over the lead of the microscopy group at the Fritz Haber Institute in Berlin and started to develop and implement tools for in-situ electron microscopy. In 2018, he accepted a new position at the Scientific Center of Optical and Electron Microscopy (ScopeM) at the ETH in Zürich, where he is responsible for TEM in material science and the development and implementation of in situ techniques.