Nano Catalysis – University of Copenhagen

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Nano Catalysis

Our research group is an international team devoted to the development of efficient and affordable electrocatalysts for sustainable energy conversion. Through basic research we develop efficient and affordable hydrogen generation (electrolysis), and hydrogen conversion (fuel cells) systems. For the implementation of these technologies, the amount of the expensive Pt-based catalyst must be reduced and at the same time its durability increased.

Our research topics include

  • synthesis and investigation of well-defined nanoclusters for energy conversion
  • synthesis and investigation the activity and degradation mechanisms of carbon supported and unsupported electrocatalysts for PEM fuel cells
  • novel concepts for cheaper and more durable catalysts
  • influence of spectator-species in electrocatalysis
  • develop improved electrochemical setups (soft- and hardware solutions) and procedures for catalyst testing.

In our research group we have several automated electrochemical test stands with RDEs and a multi-electrode setup. Our knowledge in this area led to the spin-out company Nordic Electrochemistry. We have one in-situ FTIR setup and one differential electrochemical mass spectrometry setup. Last but not least, we have equipment for catalyst synthesis. We frequently use TEM, SEM, and XRD at the Nano-Science Center.

At UCPH we work together with Assoc. Prof. J. Kirkensgaard concerning small X-ray scattering (SAXS), the research group of Assoc. Prof. T. Vosch concerning Raman Spectroscopy, and the research group of Prof. J. Rossmeisl concerning DFT calculations. International collaborations include Prof. M. Baeumer and Dr. S. Kunz (Uni Bremen), Prof. U. Heiz (TU-Munich), and Dr. K. Mayrhofer (MPIE) Furthermore, we collaborate with different groups within the 4M Center for Interdisciplinary Fundamental research to promote commercialization of HT-PEMFCs and the European DECORE consortium. We are member of the Danish Electrochemical Society, the Danish Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, as well as the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Academy (HyFc). 

Recent highlights of our research include the joint study with the groups of Tom Vosch and Sebastian Kunz concerning the influence of light on the particle formation in a colloidal synthesis of Pt Nanoparticles. The basic finding was that in a standard polyol synthesis performed at room temperature, the exposure to light is crucial for the particle formation process. This lead to the idea to use UV light to actively influence particle formation, an exciting new synthesis strategy for unprotected nanoparticles, which is currently under investigation.


Sapere Aude DFF-Forskningsleder project

grant# 10-081337 (2011-2014)

Work from founded by project was selected Danish Research Result of 2013. See link:

People involved in Sapere Aude Project

  • Ioannis Spanos
  • Alessandro Zana
  • Markus Nesselberger
  • Jozsef Speder (now Solvicore)
  • Melanie Roefzaad (now Siemens)
  • Katron Schlögl (now Clariant)
  • Sean Ashton (now Inteligent Energy)

Fundamentals of fuel cell catalyst degradation

We employ IL-TEM in combination with accelerated stress tests to investigate the degradation mechanisms of model catalysts as well as carbon supported high surface area catalysts. The aim is to understand how the different degradation channels depend on the treatment conditions and the catalyst support. This knowledge is then utilized for the development of improved catalysts.

Recent publications

J. Speder, A. Zana, I. Spanos, J.J.K. Kirkensgaard, K. Mortensen, M. Hanzlik, M. Arenz; "Comparative degradation study of carbon supported proton exchange membrane fuel cell electrocatalysts – the influence of the platinum to carbon ratio on the degradation rate"; Journal of Power Sources, 261 (2014), 14-22

A. Zana, J. Speder, N.E.A. Reeler, T. Vosch, M. Arenz; "Investigating the corrosion of high surface area carbons during Start/Stop fuel cell conditions: a Raman study"; Electrochimica Acta 114 (2013) 455-461

J. Speder, A. Zana, I. Spanos, J.J.K. Kirkensgaard, K. Mortensen, M. Arenz; "On the influence of the Pt to carbon ratio on the degradation of high surface area carbon supported PEM fuel cell electrocatalysts"; Electrochemistry Communications 2013, 34, 153–156

M. Nesselberger, M. Roefzaad, F. Hamou, P.U. Biedermann, F.F. Schweinberger, S. Kunz, K. Schlögl, G.K.H. Wiberg, S. Ashton, U. Heiz, K.J.J. Mayrhofer, M. Arenz; The effect of particle proximity on the oxygen reduction rate of size-selected platinum clusters; Nature Materials 2013, 12, 919-924;

A. Zana, J. Speder, M. Roefzaad, L. Altmann, M. Bäumer, M. Arenz; Probing Degradation by IL-TEM: The Influence of Stress Test Conditions on the Degradation Mechanism; Journal of the Electrochemical Society, 160 (6) F608-F615 (2013)

K. Schlögl et al.; Comparative IL-TEM study concerning the degradation of carbon supported Pt-based electrocatalysts; Journal of the Electrochemical Society, 2012, 159(6) B677-B682

K. Schlögl et al.; Identical-location TEM investigations of Pt/C electrocatalyst degradation at elevated temperatures; Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry 2011, 662, 355-360

Synthesis of supported high surface area catalysts for model studies

In collaboration with the group of Marcus Baumer in Bremen we use a colloidal approach for systematically synthesizing Pt and Pt alloy based electrocatalysts.

Recent publications

J. Speder, L. Altmann, M. Bäumer, J.J.K. Kirkensgaard, K. Mortensen, M. Arenz; "The particle proximity effect: from model to high surface area fuel cell catalysts"; RSC Adv., 2014, 4 (29), 14971 - 14978

J. Speder, L. Altmann, M. Roefzaad, M. Bäumer, J.J.K. Kirkensgaard, K. Mortensen, M. Arenz; "Pt based PEMFC catalysts prepared from colloidal particle suspensions – a toolbox for model studies"; Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2013, 15, 3602

In-situ FTIR spectroscopy of electrochemical interface

We build up of an in-situ electrochemical ATR-FTIR setup combined with a wall-jet electrode to investigate the electrocatalytic properties of nanoparticulate catalysts in-situ under controlled mass transport conditions. The setup allows the electrochemical interface to be probed in combination with the simultaneous determination of reaction rates.

Recent publications

M. Nesselberger, S. Ashton, G.K.H. Wiberg, M. Arenz; "Design, development and demonstration of a fully LabVIEW controlled in-situ electrochemical FTIR setup combined with a wall-jet electrode to investigate the electrochemical interface of nanoparticulate electrocatalysts under reaction conditions"; Rev. Sci. Instrum. 84, 074103 (2013)

Further projects


Direct ElectroChemical Oxidation Reaction of Ethanol: optimization of the catalyst/support assembly for high temperature operation; see link:

4M Center on HT-PEM fuel cells

See link:

Cost Action MP0903 Nanoalloys

See link:


Key publications

M. Nesselberger et al.; The effect of particle proximity on the oxygen reduction rate of size-selected platinum clusters; Nature Materials; DOI: 10.1038/nmat3712

M. Nesselberger et al.; The particle size effect on the oxygen reduction reaction activity of Pt catalysts: Influence of electrolyte and relation to single crystal models; Journal of American Chemical Society 2011, 133, 17428–17433

K. Hartl et al.; IL-TEM investigations on the degradation mechanism of Pt/C electrocatalysts with different carbon supports; Energy & Environmental Science 2011, 4, 234-238

K.J.J. Mayrhofer et. al.; Adsorbate-induced surface segregation for core-shell nanocatalysts; Angewandte Chemie International Edition (2009), 48, 3529

K.J.J. Mayrhofer et. al.; Fuel cell catalyst degradation on the Nanoscale;Electrochemistry Communications 10 1144 – 1147 (2008)

V. Stamenkovic et. al.; Trends in Electrocatalysis: From extended to nanoscale surfaces; Nature Materials 6 241 - 247 (2007)

M. Arenz et. al.; The effect of the particle size on the kinetics of CO electrooxidation on high surface area Pt catalysts; Journal of the American Chemical Society 127 6819-6829 (2005)

Complete list of publications or


  • Associate Professor Matthias Arenz
  • Dr. Alessandro Zana
  • Dr. Gustav Sievers
  • Michael Fleige
  • Yujia Deng
  • Anders Holten
  • Kaspar Holst-Olesen
  • Masanori Inaba
  • Bethan Davies
  • Tim Sørensen