Operando spectroscopy is a critical tool in the field of catalysis. It takes its name from the Latin word for “working” as it covers spectroscopic analyses of catalytic reactions under working conditions. This differs from standard spectroscopic methods by combining spectroscopy of the catalyst under working conditions with on-line reaction monitoring. By combining these methods, operando spectroscopy can offer new insights into different catalytic mechanisms representative of dynamic reaction pathways under real-world conditions.

Research and development into the enhancement of existing catalysts, as well as novel catalyst discovery has intensified significantly in recent years. Conventional high-throughput synthesis has yielded successes in select “lucky catalysts” which exhibit high activities for specific reactions, but these large volume production techniques fail to provide any decent depth of knowledge into key activity-controlling factors. Operando spectroscopy can provide that level of detail, helping researchers uncover the relationship between catalyst structure and performance.

Such knowledge is essential for researchers hoping to develop a new generation of high-efficiency catalysts for truly sustainable solutions like hydrogen storage.

What is Hydrogen Storage?

Hydrogen has been earmarked as one of the main successor technologies to petroleum-based fuels. With an energy content of 120 MJ/kg, it is almost three times as potent as gasoline. However, this situation is almost perfectly inverted when you factor in power by density rather than mass. The extremely low weight of hydrogen presents a unique challenge to fuel cell engineers hoping to exploit the clean energy potential of hydrogen gas.

One of the leading solutions for long-term viability of hydrogen fuel cell technologies is to immobilize hydrogen in sorbent organometallic catalysts, usually a metal hydride. R&D into optimizing metal hydride catalysts typically centers on how to: improve their gravimetric and volumetric capacities; enhance their adsorption and release mechanics; and functionalize the reaction thermodynamics of candidate materials for real world application. Operando spectroscopy can assist with each of these goals.

Challenges in Metal Hydride Characterization

Though it is crucial to build a thorough understanding of the reaction kinetics of catalytic materials, solid-state organometallic catalysts often exhibit extremely complex reaction mechanisms. Researchers may be dealing with multicomponent catalysts with ill-defined structures and numerous active sites. This complexity can make it difficult to ascertain specific reaction pathways, or to accurately predict the behavior of catalysts in operating conditions.

Without a deep and precise understanding of a catalyst’s activity mechanisms, it is impossible to determine the temperature regime responsible for optimal desorption. Likewise, if you do not understand how carriers respond to operating conditions it is difficult to predict how changes in composition and structure will affect performance. This ultimately means that standard spectroscopic techniques no longer satisfy the strict demands of catalyst characterization.

Operando Spectroscopy with Hiden Analytical

At Hiden Analytical, we provide a wide range of complimentary spectroscopic solutions for industry and research. Operando spectroscopy can comprise a wide selection of analytical tools coupled to uncover details of samples under dynamic test conditions. Want to learn more about using our solutions for operando spectroscopy? Contact us today.

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