Chapter 7: Professor Ib Chorkendorff
Some of the researchers presented in this book are public faces, but that is not the case for Ib Chorkendorff, despite his being world renowned in his field. Nonetheless, his research field has the potential to have the biggest impact on our everyday lives: he and his group are at the forefront of developing catalytic processes that then create fuel from substances such as CO2.
“We create catalysis, so we are able to transform electric energy into chemical energy. We do this because we believe that, in the future, energy will come from the sun and wind. This means that we will get a lot of electricity that can then be used for different electrical gadgets, for example, electric cars. But there are also many areas that cannot be powered with electricity alone. Airplanes are one example of this, since they will not be able to fly on batteries, maybe with the exception of very short flights. Another example of this is the chemical industry, which uses 5 percent of our energy; this industry can’t run on electricity alone. The same goes for the production of steel, another industry that accounts for 5 percent of global energy consumption.”
“We humans are incredibly demanding. We want a car with at least 100 horsepower, but it is not allowed to take up more space than half a horse. And biology can’t keep up with that. But with our methods we can do the same with very little space. Our methods demand that we go down to the atomic level and, first and foremost, understand what it takes to create a good catalyst, and then manipulate the atoms into configurations that have good catalytic qualities. This is our baseline: research with a technological insight. This is what I enjoy, and I also believe that it is useful for students. I remember when I was studying and I asked my guidance counsellor why this field was so interesting. The answer was that no one had done this before. That was a good reason, but I think it was even more interesting that there was a technological angle, and that it can be used for something concrete in the future.”
You can read the full portrait of Professor Ib Chorkendorff (in Danish) by downloading the chapter below.