Ulrike Katrin Küst

Ulrike Katrin Küst

Doctoral student

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Research

Burning cars, drowning polar bears, and the extinction of trees; that's how some of us might imagine the results of climate change. To keep the cars from burning and the bears from drowning, fossil fuels have to be replaced in the near future. A promising alternative are bio-fuels, which contain a lot of methane. This, unfortunately, is a potent greenhouse gas which is why it needs to be removed from exhaust processes by being processed further. The most common processing method is oxidation, meaning turning methane and oxygen into water and carbon dioxide. This reaction, however, is like trying to climb over a mountain. It needs some help, so-called catalysts, to take place. The catalyst acts like a tunnel, it lowers the energy needed to make the reaction occur. To learn more about how to build the optimal tunnel for the processing of methane, we need to learn more about the reaction itself. It can be studied using X-rays, and just like at the doctor's, the resulting image can tell us what is going on. With this method, it is thus possible to follow each step of the reaction which gives additional information about the system. Therefore, we can learn a lot about the methane oxidation reaction.

During the studies in my project, we want to find out whether certain catalyst surface phases preferably process methane and other short hydrocarbons in one of the following ways. If there is a lot of oxygen present, the hydrocarbon will oxidize producing carbon dioxide and water, if less oxygen is available, carbon monoxide and water will be produced. Finally, carbon deposition onto the catalyst surface can be observed under some circumstances. This study will be done for several different catalysts and hydrocarbons.

The ultimate goal is to understand catalyzed hydrocarbon oxidation reactions better in order to eventually be able to fabricate more suitable and efficient catalysts.

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