New lab for electrochemical interfaces at BESSY II

The Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) is establishing a joint lab together with the Max Planck Society (MPS) to study electrochemical phenomenon at solid/liquid interfaces. The Berlin Joint Lab for Electrochemical Interfaces, or BElChem for short, will employ X-rays from BESSY II to analyse materials for renewable energy production.

The HZB operates BESSY II, a synchrotron light source that generates brilliant X-ray pulses. These enable electronic and chemical processes in thin-film materials to be studied. Now the HZB and the Max Planck Society (MPS) are jointly establishing an additional new laboratory at BESSY II in order to analyse systems of materials for electrochemical and catalytic applications. The partners will operate three dedicated beamlines at the BElChem Joint Lab, two of which generate soft X-rays, and one that makes available hard X-rays.

“We are creating an ideal environment at BElChem for detailed investigations of electrochemical processes in complex systems of materials under realistic conditions. For example, we want to analyse how artificial leaf systems work in splitting water molecules with sunlight and generating solar hydrogen”, says Prof. Roel van de Krol, who heads the HZB Institute for Solar Fuels.

Colleagues at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society (FHI) are focussing on catalytically active materials. “Our team is studying the fundamental processes that play a role in the splitting of water molecules with electrical energy and that are involved in using the resulting hydrogen to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons and oxygen. In this way, we elaborate the principles by which catalysts can be improved”, says Prof. Robert Schlögl, who heads FHI.

The laboratory is being equipped with state-of-the-art instruments for photoelectron spectroscopy, while specialised sample environments will facilitate studies under various environmental conditions of pressure, temperature, and inert atmospheres. Six post-doc positions have been allocated for setting up and operating the new joint laboratory. Research groups from other scientific institutions, universities, and from industrial firms will also be able to utilise BElChem.

The HZB and MPS will be expanding their successful partnership through BElChem. They already jointly operate a suite of beamlines at BESSY II and have jointly set up the Energy Materials In-situ Laboratory (EMIL@BESSY II). EMIL likewise serves the development of energy materials such as novel solar cells and solar fuels. The opportunities offered there for synthesis and analysis will now be strategically supplemented by the establishment of the BElChem Joint Lab.