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The Board has awarded a new HRSMC Fellowship as a result of Call 2023-2.
Dr. Luca Bergamasco
Dr. Luca Bergamasco

Soap-film based electrochemical water splitting

Guest: Dr. Luca Bergamasco, Department of Energy, Politecnico di Torino, Italy

Hosted by: Prof. Sylvestre Bonnet, MCBIM Group, Leiden University

Total of 1.5 months

Soap films have extraordinary properties, with an outstanding potential to inspire unconventional design in a variety of technological applications. Soap films typically consist of a very thin layer of water, enclosed between two self-assembled surfactant monolayers. If properly functionalized, the two monolayers can be envisioned as e.g. photo-reactive surfaces to realize soft, self-healing liquid membranes for artificial photosynthetic applications. These membranes can be assembled into structured foams, to achieve large surface-reactive systems.   

This project stems as part of Prof. Bonnet’s research lines on artificial photosynthesis using soft interfaces and was conceptualized in collaboration with Dr. Indraneel Sen (Wasabi Innovations). Based on previous observations and evidence on the possible use of soap foams as photo-reactive systems for solar fuel production, in this project we analyze their possible use as electro-catalytic systems for hydrogen production. To this, a modified version of a prototype foam-based photo-reactor available at Prof. Bonnet’s group will be adopted.

During his visit, Dr. Bergamasco will focus on experimental testing to demonstrate the generation of hydrogen and oxygen using a tailored version of the available foam-based reactor. Particularly, he will: 1) install the modified reactor in a proper set-up for the acquisition of the experimental data; 2) analyze the electro-chemical response, based on the nature and concentration of the chemicals, such as surfactants and catalysts in the foam; 3) optimize the working conditions for hydrogen production and analyze the efficiency of the reactor.

The experimental testing of the proposed concept is expected to establish foundational evidence on the working principle and help a better understanding of the fundamental physical-chemical mechanisms underlying electro-chemical hydrogen production and proton conduction in this completely novel reactor design based on soap films.