Young investigator research group on electrocatalysis at HZB
Dr. Michelle Browne (here at her graduation ceremony in Dublin) starts now a Young Investigator Group at HZB. © privat
Dr. Michelle Browne establishes her own young investigator group at the HZB . Starting in August, the group is co-funded by the Helmholtz Association for the next five years. The electrochemist from Ireland concentrates on electrolytically active novel material systems and wants to develop next-generation electrocatalysts, for example hydrogen production. At HZB she will find the perfect environment to conduct her research.
Michelle Browne received her PhD in 2016 from the University of Dublin, Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Ireland. She held research fellow positions at universities in Belfast, Prague, and Dublin. She has received prestigious fellowships and awards, for example the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, L’Oreal UNESCO Rising Talent UK & Ireland Fellowship and the Clara Immerwahr Award.
Her research focuses on the synthesis of novel catalytically active materials such as transition metal oxides and MXenes. She aims to characterise and optimise these material systems in order to develop next-generation electrolyzer materials that can also be upscaled for industrial use, in order to produce green hydrogen.
Electrocatalysis: Synthesis to Devices
Michelle Browne's research project fits perfectly with the research projects already underway at the Institute for Solar Fuels and within CatLab. "At HZB, I have a wide variety of investigation methods at my disposal, from scanning electron microscopy to the various instruments at BESSY II, which also allow operando analyses," she says.
Michelle Browne's affiliation with the Technische Universität Berlin in the Institute of Chemistry is planned. Starting in the fall, Browne will recruit postdocs and PhD students to join her team.
Green hydrogen: How photoelectrochemical water splitting may become competitive
Sunlight can be used to produce green hydrogen directly from water in photoelectrochemical (PEC) cells. So far, systems based on this "direct approach" have not been energetically competitive. However, the balance changes as soon as some of the hydrogen in such PEC cells is used in-situ for a catalytic hydrogenation reaction, resulting in the co-production of chemicals used in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The energy payback time of photoelectrochemical "green" hydrogen production can be reduced dramatically, the study shows.
Perovskite solar cells from the slot die coater - a step towards industrial production
Solar cells made from metal halide perovskites achieve high efficiencies and their production from liquid inks requires only a small amount of energy. A team led by Prof. Dr. Eva Unger at Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin is investigating the production process. At the X-ray source BESSY II, the group has analyzed the optimal composition of precursor inks for the production of high-quality FAPbI3 perovskite thin films by slot-die coating. The solar cells produced with these inks were tested under real life conditions in the field for a year and scaled up to mini-module size.
Superstore MXene: New proton hydration structure determined
MXenes are able to store large amounts of electrical energy like batteries and to charge and discharge rather quickly like a supercapacitor. They combine both talents and thus are a very interesting class of materials for energy storage. The material is structured like a kind of puff pastry, with the MXene layers separated by thin water films. A team at HZB has now investigated how protons migrate in the water films confined between the layers of the material and enable charge transport. Their results have been published in the renowned journal Nature Communications and may accelerate the optimisation of these kinds of energy storage materials.