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Research intentions

Design, insight, security and societal impact

Key researcher: Prof. Michal Otyepka, CATRIN UP

In pursuit of solving a number of complex problems faced by contemporary society, such as efficient and cost-effective energy sources, technologies for efficient energy storage, powerful catalysts and substitution of strategic metal materials for sensors and therapy, our researchers will focus on the design, synthesis and application of new materials based on single-atom engineering. These advanced materials, known as Single-Atom Engineered Materials (SAEM), will offer completely new properties and opportunities. To prepare SAEM, i.e., materials precisely doped at the level of individual atoms and with electronic properties tailored for various applications, researchers will develop and use accurate and robust tools for rational, computer-aided design. The combination of experiments and computational methods will unlock an understanding of the relationships between the structure, properties and function of SAEM, which is necessary not only for their targeted design but also for effective application in practice. The design will aim at the development of safe and sustainable materials. We will assess not only the toxicity or safety of the prepared materials, but also society’s acceptance and their social impacts. At the same time, we will also propose strategies to combat the so-called fake news, which could negatively affect the perception of new technologies.

Senzing, biosenzing and biomedicine

Key researcher: prof. RNDr. Martin Pumera, Ph.D.

Our researchers will be engaged in studying a new class of materials based on single-atom engineering, which will be crucial for the preparation of reliable and affordable sensors in the fields of the environment, biomedicine and biomedical therapies. The objective is to design materials that will be able to react efficiently to the presence of different substances, alongside functioning in different environments and resisting interferences. The use of several specific atoms through SAEM will enable multiplex detection of analytes. To meet the needs of POC (Point-of-Care) detection down to the level of individual objects (molecules, biomolecules), the sensitivity, selectivity and robustness of biosensors will be significantly increased in order to reduce sample volumes to a minimum. This will be achieved by using single-atom engineering of active signal multipliers, i.e., nanozymes. Single-atom engineering will also enable the development of highly specific therapeutic substances.


Key researcher: prof. Jiří Čejka, PřF UK

The researchers will devote themselves to finding technological solutions for new catalytic processes. The design, synthesis and application of new catalysts based on advanced inorganic, organic and hybrid support, combined with single-atom engineering, will lead to the design of catalysts with completely new properties and performance. The research activities will focus on the synthesis of single-atom catalysts (SACs) based on active carriers with a controlled coordination sphere; on detailed characterisation of structural, chemical, and electronic properties for SAC optimisation; and on research into the catalytic efficiency of SACs in challenging reactions and mechanistic studies. These topics have not yet been studied as they require completely new scientific approaches and methodologies. The research will set new challenges for achieving a breakthrough in understanding and efficiency of SAEMs in catalysis, leading to a paradigm shift in the new generation of SAC design and patentable results applicable in industrial synthesis of special chemicals.


Key researcher: prof. Radek Zbořil

The rebalancing of the energy chain is closely linked to intensive efforts to develop sustainable and efficient ways of producing, storing and accessing energy during periods of high demand. The research will therefore focus on developing new single-atom based materials in order to address the challenges of the energy crisis, thus enabling a safe transition to zero emission technologies and to find solutions crucial for sustainable energy production and storage. The researchers will investigate the properties of SAEMs and their ability to catalyse energy-intensive reactions, such as the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen, and the production of chemicals, such as hydrogen peroxide, whereby contributing to sustainable energy. At the same time, they will develop techniques to monitor and describe the reaction mechanisms of SAEMs on the surface of electrocatalysts and photocatalysts, which is essential for designing new systems.

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