Plasma treatment is a facile and scalable technique to alter nanostructures and thin film catalysts, change their defect density as well as chemical state. Plasmas can be used in many ways to activate catalysts, for example by removing capping ligands used in the synthesis of nanoparticles (NPs) without sintering, by changing the chemical state of the surface or by creating defects or embedded atoms which can improve reactivity. We will address here the following research tasks: (1) the use of atmospheric plasmas in the synthesis of active thin film and NP catalysts via: their controlled oxidation and subsequent stabilization of active oxygen species, and the enhancement of their surface roughness and generation of catalytically active defect sites. (2) The analysis
of the electrochemical catalytic performance of plasma-synthesized and functionalised nanostructured materials for energy-related reactions such as CO2 electrochemical reduction to chemicals and fuels. (3) The use of plasmas under electrochemical operando reaction conditions to activate catalyst via the controlled Generation of defects, the stabilization of a given oxidation state, the stabilization of a pre-set surface roughness, the removal of poisonous carbonaceous species which might be produced as reaction intermediates, as well as the enhancement of electric fields at the liquid-solid interface which might lead to more favourable onset potentials for the activation of a given reaction pathway leading to unique reaction selectivity. The materials we plan to synthesize as model systems include atmospheric-plasma nanostructured Cu and Ag films and Cu and Ag size- and shape-controlled NPs obtained via colloidal chemistry (spherical NPs) and solvent-driven electrochemical growth (nanocubes) and subsequently exposed to atmospheric plasma (O2,
H2, N2, and Ar-plasmas) post-preparation treatments in order to tune their roughness and surface chemical termination. The use of plasmas to controllably create nanostructured materials or to generate reactive species in electrocatalytic reactions is a promising area of research which has been scarcely explored.
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