Novel Copper-electrocatalyst architectures for CO2 reduction reaction

  • Project Acronym: CuCO2RR
  • Contract: 134/ 2017
  • Contracting Autority: UEFISCDI
  • Contractor: Universitatea din Bucuresti
  • Allocated Funds: 431.900,00 lei
The chief aim of the project at hand is to solve one of the great mystery in electrocatalysis: activity and selectivity of electrochemical reduction of CO2 (CO2RR). This project will focus in-depth on the scientific understanding of the processes occurring in electro- and photo-assisted chemical reduction of CO2 on nanostructured Cu catalysts. The project aims at providing a better understanding of active sites, elucidation of reaction mechanisms. It is expected that these catalysts lower the onset potential of CO2 reduction compared with electrodeposited Cu. The team is a perfect match between young enthusiastic researchers with expertise in electrochemistry, surface science and nanoparticle synthesis and mature academics with an excellent background in project management, teaming up for delivering such an ambitious goal. Being a project supporting excellence, it is expected to promote enlargement and diversification of knowledge, the formation of a new generation of scientists (social role) with a high professional level: 3 PhD students and 1 master students shall work on this project, under the supervision of the experienced senior researchers. Moreover, it is expected that the team will push the CO2RR knowledge beyond the state-of-the-art by producing outstanding research articles: min 2 scientific papers submitted to peer review journals, 2 conference paper/poster and 1 patent application shall be elaborated based on the accumulated knowledge during the implementation of the project.
Project CoordinatorUniversity of Bucharest  Faculty of Physics 3NANO-SAE Research Center, University of Bucharest, the largest and most prestigious academic institution, has over 140 years of experience and expertise in education and research, recently receiving the title of “University ”. with the most intense research activity ”. In 2007, a survey by The Times Higher Education Supplement ranked the University of Bucharest in the top 500 most prestigious universities. Organized in Faculties and Departments, it carries out its activities on three study programs, Master’s programs (117) and 21 doctoral schools with 300 supervisors and 3000 doctoral students. 3Nano-SAE Research and Development Center, located in the Faculty of Physics, department with research activities in biosensors, nanoelectronics, fuel cell technology, hydrogen systems, hybrid energy systems, coordinator of the doctoral school and the postdoctoral school Pile de Combustie . and Hydrogen Storage. The infrastructure consists of laboratories: fuel cell testing, hydrogen generation and storage, biofuel cells, hybrid energy systems engineering, material characterization (Charm), Plasma Chemistry, Photoresist, and polymer printing technology (PCPT), advanced chemistry of synthesis and deposition of polymers (APSC). There is an extensive and unique campus within the Faculty of Physics covering methods of synthesis, processing, and characterization of materials such as semiconductors, polymers, nanocomposites. Research interests include conventional and innovative nanomaterials, structures and devices needed in the design of fuel cells, sensors (chemical, electrochemical), plasma polymerization, electrochemical polymerization, supercritical fluids, sol-gel, materialized in a large list of projects / collaborations: 9 international projects and 35 national projects.

Project leader: 

Dr. Adriana Balan, Lector/CSIII, Facultatea de Fizică, Universitatea din București, titlul de Doctor în Fizică obținut în anul 2011.  Este co-fondator al Centrului de Cercetare 3Nano-SAE și coordonează activitatea de cercetare a studenților în cadrul programului de master Surse de Energii Regenerabile și Alternative, în cadrul Facultății de Fizică. Experiență profesională în activitatea de cercetare: materiale compozite polimerice, carbonice cu aplicații în dispozitive electrochimice- pile de combustie, metode de caracterizare materiale- microscopie de forțe atomice, analize termice, electrochimie. Participă în implementare proiectului internațional ”Metode inovative de învățare pentru viitorii specialiști în energii regenerabile” care are ca obiectiv crearea unei platforme educaționale între Universitatea Reykjavik și Universitatea din București și mobilități inter-universitare în vederea formării viitorilor specialiștilor în energie regenerabilă. A fost director sau responsabil de proiect în cinci proiecte de cercetare naționale și a participat în 15 proiecte ca membru în echipă. Este co-autor a patru brevete naționale, a publicat 57 de lucrări ISI, cu peste 500 de citări, indice Hirsh 13 (

Team Members: 

Cornelia Diac, age: 28, PhD in Physics (2017-2021). Over the Ph.D program I accumulated a rich experience in managing and conducting project activities, being able to undergo research topics of great complexity in the field of electrochemistry and dissolution processes. I gained significant knowledge in electrochemical processes and I learned how to operate a large group of devices, from which relevant to this project: Electrochemical potentiostat/galvanostat, ICP – OES, Raman, UV – Vis Spectroscopy, CHNS Elemental Analyzer, Thermogravimetric analyzer.

Drd. Iuliana Maxim,

Drd. Tom Iacob,

Dr. Ioan Stamatin, Professor Ph.D, at the Faculty of Physics, University of Bucharest (FF-UB). Areas of expertise: Electrochemical energy converters (Fuel cells, batteries, supercapacitors); Eco-nanotechnologies; Nanomaterials Synthesis; Polymers, biopolymers, bio-nanotechnologies; Rapid Prototyping and energy storage applications (supercapacitors, batteries, sensors); Electrocatalysts based platinum used in fuel cells; Sensors and electrochemical method for different analyte detections; Physico–chemical characterization of materials by spectroscopy (UV-Vis, FT-IR ATR, fluorescence); optical microscopy; ultrasound treatments. He is the founder and leader of 3NanoSAE Research Center, and his main expertise is in material science and characterization. He published 155 scientific papers; Patents indexed in Derwent international data base: 14; He supervised and refereed 28 PhD thesis; Project Leader in 7 projects, and as team member in other 20 research projects; > 1700 citations. , h-index 24 (ISI Web of Science). Personal link:

The project goal is to develop novel nanostructured oxide layers and porous surfaces with tunable morphology and chemical state on polycrystalline Cu using oxygen and hydrogen plasmas. The project aims at providing a better understanding of active sites, elucidation of reaction mechanisms during the photo-electrochemical reduction of CO2.


– min 2 scientific papers published in ISI indexed journals,

– 2 conference / poster papers

– 1 patent application based on the knowledge gained during the implementation of the project

Phase I Design and construction of the test bench. Synthesis of nanostructured materials. (Deadline 31.12.2021)

During Phase I / 2021, several Cu based structures were tested and characterized using a new photoelectrochemical cell configuration. The obtained materials were characterized from a morpho-structural and physico-chemical point of view using the following methods: atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), UV-Viz and Raman spectrophotometry, electrochemical measurements (cyclic voltammetry, spectroscopy electrochemical impedance). The results obtained demonstrate the potential of these catalysts based on Cu nanostructures for the electrochemical reduction of CO2. In the next stage, studies will be continued to obtain various Cu-based nanostructures through plasma activation processes and optimize the CO2 conversion process.

Phase II. Study of the fotoelectrochemical CO2 reduction reaction- I (Deadline 31.12.2022)

Task II.1. Optimization of the electrocatalyst synthesis process – Cu nanostructures

Task II.2. Studying the photo-electrochemical processes of CO2 reduction using the experimental device developed within the project- I

Task II.3.  Analysis of the reaction products -I

Phase III. Study of the fotoelectrochemical CO2 reduction reaction- II (Deadline 14.03.2023)

Task III.1. Studying the photo-electrochemical processes of CO2 reduction using the experimental device developed within the project- II

Task III.2. Analysis of the reaction products -II

Publication list 

(1) Ionescu, V.; Balan, A.E.; Trefilov, A.M.I.; Stamatin, I. Exergetic Performance of a PEM Fuel Cell with Laser-Induced Graphene as the Microporous Layer. Energies 202114, 6232.

(2) Trefilov, A.M.I.; Balan, A.; Stamatin, I. Hybrid Proton-Exchange Membrane Based on Perfluorosulfonated Polymers and Resorcinol–Formaldehyde Hydrogel. Polymers 202113, 4123.



  • 1 oral presentation at internantional conference: EMRS Fall Meeting 2021: Plasma Functionalized Carbon Nanowalls as Microporous Layers in PEM Fuel Cells,  Autori : Alexandra M.I. Trefilov, Bogdan I. Bita, Sorin Vizireanu, Ana V. Filip, Marius C. Dinca, Bogdan A. Sava, Gheorghe Dinescu, Adriana Andronie Balan
  • 1 poster at 19th International Conference on Plasma Physics and Applications- Book of Abstracts: Plasma Functionalized Carbon Nanowalls as Microporous Layers in PEM Fuel Cells,  Autori : Alexandra M.I. Trefilov, Bogdan I. Bita, Adriana Andronie Balan, Sorin Vizireanu, Gheorghe Dinescu