ERC Synergy Grant for Prof. Dr. Karl Mayrhofer

Professor Karl Mayrhofer
FAU/Georg Pöhlein

Karl Mayrhofer receives prestigious European funding

Prof. Dr. Karl Mayrhofer has been awarded a Synergy Grant, one of the most prestigious grants awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) for his work on electrocatalysis.

The ERC Synergy Grant is the only European grant that is awarded exclusively to consortia consisting of several research groups. With these grants, the ERC aims to support outstanding projects that can only be mastered by pooling various perspectives, abilities and resources. Funding covers a period of six years and amounts to a total of ten million euros for each of the consortia.

The material librarian: Prof. Dr. Karl Mayrhofer

Hydrogen is a highly promising energy source. However, the production of hydrogen depends on the catalysis of reactions, some of which require extreme conditions. The electrocatalysts available to date do not usually last long under these conditions. New materials are required that are powerful, long lasting and ideally do not contain any rare or expensive elements.

In the project, “Directed Evolution of Metastable Electrocatalyst Interfaces for Energy Conversion”, DEMI for short, researchers from Germany, Denmark and Switzerland are systematically looking for suitable materials: “The most promising materials for electrocatalysts are those that consist of five elements or more,” explains Prof. Dr. Karl Mayrhofer, Executive Director and Head of Research Department Electrocatalysis at Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg (HI ERN). “We are basically looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack, as there is a virtually infinite number of possible compounds.”

The project team is following an evolutionary strategy. They calculate and simulate promising material combinations, make small adjustments to them and check whether these have a positive or negative effect. Working systematically like this, the researchers hope to track down new, improved materials. A “material library” should allow researchers to create thousands of compounds at the same time, expose them to extreme electrochemical conditions and thereby identify the “survivors” very quickly .

At HI ERN, a world leader when it comes to equipment and expertise for high-throughput screening of materials, the promising candidates are tested in terms of their potential electrochemical performance. The work focuses on simultaneously recording the materials’ activity and stability in a matter of seconds in various operating conditions. Karl Mayrhofer: “Our data-driven, connected approach will make catalysts more stable and able to perform more effectively. Our aim is to increase the efficiency of water electrolysis and the operation of fuel cells.”


Prof. Dr. Karl J. J. Mayrhofer
Helmholtz-Institut Erlangen-Nürnberg für Erneuerbare Energien (HI ERN)

Another ERC Synergy Grant has been awarded to physicist Prof. Dr. Kristian Franze for investigating the mechanic processes behind brain folding. For more information got to: Two ERC Synergy Grants for FAU researchers