Giorgio Totarella

Giorgio Totarella

PhD candidate

Supervisors: Petra de Jongh & Laurent Delannoy (Sorbonne université Paris)
Phone: +31 (0)622736361
Room: 4th floor study area

Employed since: October 2017

Research: Supported Copper-based catalysts for selective hydrogenation

In the last decades, nanomaterials prepared from Earth-abundant’ metals have attracted considerable attention in the catalytic field. Thanks to their tunable size- and shape-dependent properties, in fact, they represent suitable alternatives to expensive active phase such as platinum group metals. In this context, copper NPs are particularly attractive thanks to copper’s high natural abundance, low-cost and proven high-selectivity in interesting processes of industrial relevance as, for example, the hydrogenation of unsaturated organic substrates.

In this project, we aim to investigate supported copper-based nanoparticles for the selective hydrogenation of conjugated dienes and acetylenic compounds, as computationally they are predicted to be good candidates for noble metal catalyst replacement[1]. These polyunsaturated species, often present in industrial olefin feedstocks (e.g. C3 propylene-rich streams for the production of polypropylene), can in fact lead to undesired parasitic reaction in downstream processes, affecting the final product quality or even representing a process/safety issues. Bearing in mind that other valuable unsaturated substrates are present in the feedstocks in high excess, the selective hydrogenation of polyunsaturated hydrocarbons represents an exciting challenge.

Supported Cu particles of 4-8 nm will be prepared on different supports (i.e. metal oxides as SiO2, Al2O3 and so on)[2]. Building on earlier work in our group on Au[3], the influence of the chemical and physical nature of the support, the particle size and the presence of non-noble metallic co-promoters will be studied. We will use advanced characterization techniques such as XRD, TEM, XPS, and EXAFS. Temperature programmed runs and long-term catalytic tests will be carried out in order to provide a deeper understanding of catalyst activity, selectivity and its stability.

[1] F. Studt et al., Science 320 1320-1322 (2008).
[2] P. Munnik et al., The Journal of Physical Chemistry C 115 14698-14706 (2011).
[3] N. Masoud et al., ACS Catal 7 5594-5603 (2017).


Oct 2017 – present
PhD candidate at the MaterialsChemistry and Catalysis group, Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science, Utrecht University, under supervision of prof. dr. P. E. (Petra) de Jongh and dr. Laurent Delannoy

Dec 2016 – Oct 2017
Scholarship holder at The Institute for Research on Combustion – National Research Council of Italy (IRC-CNR), Naples (Italy), under supervision of Dr. Stefano Cimino (senior Researcher, IRC-CNR)
Research activity: i) characterization and investigation of performances and poisoning phenomena of MnOx/TiO2, MnO­x/ZSM5 catalysts for low-temperature NH3-SCR; ii) characterization and investigation of performances of Pt/CeO2-based oxidation catalysts; iii) catalyst poisoning and regeneration

Nov 2016 – July 2017
Student tutor, Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples (Italy).
Support to teaching through integrative sessions/lectrues.
Subjects: Physical Chemistry (Thermodynamics), Physics

2015 – 2016
Master’s Degree in Science and Technology of Industrial Chemistry, Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples (Italy), under supervision of prof. dr. Fabio Montagnaro, dr. Marco Balsamo, dr. Alessandro Erto
Project title: CO­2 capture from model flue-gas by means of [Emim][Gly] ionic liquid supported onto mesoporous substrates

2012 – 2014
Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Chemistry, Università degli Studi di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples (Italy), under supervision of prof. dr. Fabio Montagnaro and dr. Marco Balsamo
Project title: Fractal approach to intraparticle transport phenomena in liquid-solid adsorption processes

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