Development of Pd₃Co based catalysts for fuel cell applications and amine based solvents for CO₂ capture : a first principles based modelling of clean energy and clean air technology
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With the ever increasing environmental concerns in terms of the need for a vast improvement in clean energy and clean air technologies, this thesis focuses on analyzing the underlying principles that determine the activity of catalysts/sorbents for fuel cell applications and CO₂ capture using first principles based simulations with a view point to help fabricate efficient catalysts. We attempt to clarify the fuzzy concepts of existing surface-nearsurface interactions in Pd based electrocatalysts with particular attention to Pd₃Co alloy catalysts by presenting a thorough inter and intra-layer orbital analysis and bring forth the crucial role played by the surface-subsurface binding driven by the out of plane d-state interactions in determining the surface reactivity. We first decouple the effects induced by the different Pd-Pd and Pd-Co lattice parameters (lattice strain effect) from the hetero atom induced surface-subsurface interaction (we call it "interlayer ligand effect") and clearly demonstrate how enhanced surface-subsurface d [subscript xz+yz] interaction leads to an increased oxygen hydrogenation to H₂O in Pd₃Co based electrocatalysts. We then extend the concept of hetero atom induced surface-subsurface binding to a series of 3d transition metals and provide guidelines for the right choice of metals that may be potential ORR candidates. Finally, we describe the facet dependence and the effect of surface Au alloying on the surface reactivity of Pd₃Co electrocatalysts. In the second section of the thesis, we emphasize on the underlying principles of CO₂ capture by MEA and study the synergetic interplay of various factors that may lead to better CO₂ capture , also enabling efficient solvent regeneration. Though extensive studies are carried out on the most traditionally used alkanol amine MEA for CO₂ capture, there are several less studied aspects like the molecular orbital redistribution on CO₂ binding that decides the fate of the intermediate species and the role of water arrangement in assisting/hindering the progress of the reaction. We study the fundamental CO₂-amine interactions and highlight the crucial importance of alkanol-amine configuration, water arrangement and protonation/de-protonation tendencies at various basic sites in the development of the reaction. We then analyze the synergetic interplay between the inductive effect, the steric hindrance and the resonance in enhancing efficient CO₂ binding and allowing an alternative O-driven mechanism resulting into easy solvent regeneration. We believe that our efforts may help fabricate better catalysts and sorbents and help improve the existing clean energy and clean air technologies.