David Degerman. Foto Niklas Björling

"Realistic conditions" in this case mean "not vacuum conditions" which is a huge improvement to the field of catalysis since effects of higher pressures and temperatures are relevant, but hard to combine with physical and chemical accuracy and sensitivity.

Since the inauguration of the instrument in 2018 we have experimentally investigated several different catalysts and a handful of different reactions, in collaboration with theoretical chemical physicists. For CO and CO2 hydrogenation we have investigated Nickel, Rhodium, Copper, Iron and Cobalt and are currently in the process of writing and reporting the results.

How is your research connected to the environment and sustainable development?

- CO and CO2 hydrogenation reactions are basically combustion backwards, i.e. making fuels and chemicals out of the waste greenhouse gases. It consequently related to the possibility for atmospheric carbon capture and utilization, which is a direct way to lower the CO2 in the atmosphere while lowering the reliance on fossil sources at the same time. The CO + H2 mixture can also be produced from biomass sources which also has a lower climate impact than fossil sources. Catalysis research in general aims to lower the required energy to perform a chemical reaction, which in practice also leads to enormous environmental (and economical) gains when upscaled to industrial proportions.

Do you have a vision how Fysikum and Stockholm University should continue to work for a better environment?

- There are many minor issues which can be greatly improved upon, such as recycling of plastic/other waste in the laboratories, but this discussion is better served with a focus on the aspects with larger climate impact. The areas where the largest improvements can be made are likely travel-related (which has been the focus of environmental discussions since I started here) or related to energy-intensive equipment (i.e. laboratories where turbopumps are running 24/7 or cooling of equipment that does not always have to be cooled).

What happens with travel after COVID-19 pandemic is hard to say, but laboratory-wise I imagine that we can be better about two things:

  1. Decreasing the environmental impact of equipment not currently in use.
  2. Optimizing resources when utilizing the equipment. For example, instead or keeping the temperature by heating intensely and cooling intensely one can heat mildly and maybe cooling is not even needed.

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