Junges Kolleg NRW: Corina Andronescu new member

The earth’s temperature is rising – and rapidly. This makes it all the more important to move away from fossil fuels and switch completely to sustainable energies. Among others, CENIDE member Jun.-Prof. Dr. Corina Andronescu from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) is investigating how helpful hydrogen is in this process. For her research, she was accepted into the Young College (Junges Kolleg NRW) of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

© UDE/Bettina Engel-Albustin

Sourcing energy sustainably and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions: Both times, electrochemical processes and applications such as hydrogen generation play a crucial role. They work via electrolysis, which breaks down chemical substances into their constituent materials. “Electrolysis is the only way to produce hydrogen from water in a climate-neutral way – as long as green energy is used for this. For climate protection reasons, however, it makes extreme sense,” says chemical engineer Andronescu. Hydrogen is used in particular in the chemical industry and to power vehicles.

In the Young Scientists Group of the NRW Academy, the 35-year-old will focus on researching electrocatalysts that accelerate electrolysis. To this end, her group is focusing on non-precious metals such as nickel, which can be used to split water and thus generate hydrogen (H2). During the four-year collegiate funding, the UDE professor also wants to find out more about the design of electrodes. Why? “If we want to recycle CO2 electrolytically to enable the synthesis of its basic chemicals, their design is extremely important. We aim to combine different catalysts to increase CO2 conversion into multi-carbon products such as ethanol ethylene. Stability is also important,” she explains.

At the same time, Andronescu wants to find materials for electrochemically driven reactions that can be used to synthesize chemicals. “We need to learn to synthesize basic chemicals that are currently derived from fossil fuels from resources that are abundant in the earth, such as CO2, H2O or nitrogen (N2). The novel materials are important to enable the transformation of these molecules. Because of climate change, we need to accelerate discoveries.” To do this, she uses high-throughput electrochemical screening methods to study up to thousands of different catalysts a day. “We can identify promising catalyst materials more quickly. In the future, AI integration will also be required, but we’re not there yet.”

Acceptance into the Junge Kolleg of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences is considered an important distinction for young scientists. The fellows receive an annual stipend of 10,000 euros over a period of up to four years for their own research. From the UDE, CENIDE member Jun.-Prof. Dr. Franziska Muckel (Electrical Engineering) and Dr. Benjamin Stickel (Physics) have already been admitted to the Kolleg in 2022.

Further information:
Jun.-Prof. Dr. Corina Andronescu, Institute of Chemistry, Tel. 0203/37-93442, corina.andronescu@uni-due.de

To the press release of the UDE