A varied audience of around 40 delegates attended the 2nd high-pressure XPS conference on Energy Materials (HP-XPS-EM2), held in the Keighton Auditorium at the University of Nottingham last month. Organised by James O’Shea of the Energy Technologies Research Institute (ETRI) and the IOP Thin Films & Surfaces group, the event was supported by the IOP Nanoscale Physics group, and Scanwel/SPECS.
The plenary lecture of Andrew Thomas from the University of Manchester opened proceedings. Andrew presented his recent near-ambient pressure XPS results in the areas of solar energy and carbon capture and storage.
Other talks featured new developments in the x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy of the solid-liquid interface, fuel cells, solar water splitting, organic molecules, and x-ray absorption spectroscopy at near ambient pressures.
The technique of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) enables us to measure not only what atoms are present at the surface of our samples but also what chemical environment they’re in. It does this by using energetic photons of x-rays to kick out some of the electrons from the atom. By measuring the energy of those electrons we can tell precisely which type of atom they came from. Small changes in their energy can also be attributed to changes in their local environment or chemical state. Traditionally, this technique has to take place in a vacuum so that the electrons can travel the fairly long distance to the detector without colliding with gas molecules. However, advances in analyser technology now enable us to perform these measurements at much higher pressures in a technique known as high-pressure XPS (HP-XPS). Because these pressures bring us close to the partial pressures of gasses in the atmosphere, the technique is also commonly referred to as near-ambient pressure XPS (NAP-XPS). With this technique we can follow processes happening at atomic and molecular level at the surfaces of materials for applications such as catalysis, fuel cells, water splitting, solar cells, gas storage and sensors - technologies that are vital for the future of our energy security.
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