Marcel Risch to form research group at the HZB with an ERC Starting Grant

Dr. Marcel Risch has been awarded with an ERC Starting Grant and will continue his research at HZB.

Marcel Risch's research group at Georg August Universität, Göttingen, Germany. © M.Risch

The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) will be further strengthened in its research on solar fuels. Dr. Marcel Risch, who recently obtained an ERC Starting Grants, is moving from Georg August Universität, Göttingen to the HZB. Starting in March 2019, the materials physicist will set up his own research group to analyse and improve catalytic materials for water splitting.

Marcel Risch already knows the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin as a user, and now he will come permanently. The opportunity to combine materials synthesis, electrochemistry, and X-ray spectroscopy offered at the Energy Materials In Situ Laboratory (EMIL) at the BESSY II synchrotron source for example, are particularly attractive for him. Risch is researching catalytically active materials for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. This makes it feasible to produce hydrogen, which is a climate-neutral alternative to fossil fuels.

Risch received his doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin in 2011. The physicist then spent four years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, USA. Since 2016 he has been conducting research at the Institut für Materialphysik at Georg August Universität in Göttingen, Germany, most recently as head of a Young Investigator Group.

His research project for which he recently received the ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council deals with the mechanism of oxygen development during the catalytic decomposition of water. The project is entitled “ME4OER - Mechanism Engineering of the Oxygen Evolution Reaction” and is funded by the ERC Starting Grant of 1.5 million euros for five years.

Risch and his team will study selected synthetic materials with specific crystal structures (spinel or perovskite-type). He is concentrating on the class of transition metal oxides that are very inexpensive but exhibit low efficiency in the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) which limits the production of hydrogen. Risch wants to increase the efficiency of such catalysts by several orders of magnitude through detailed knowledge of the reaction processes. To do this, the catalytic reactions on the surfaces must be analysed in detail. At EMIL he can fabricate these surfaces and analyse them in situ or in operando using X-ray spectroscopic methods.