Catalysts accelerate chemical reactions and form the backbone of many industrial processes. For example, they are important for converting heavy fuel oil into gasoline or jet fuel. Today, catalysts are involved in over 80 percent of all manufactured products.
A research team led by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE )’s Argonne National Laboratory has partnered with Northern Illinois University to discover a new electrocatalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO)2nd) and water in ethanol with very high energy efficiency, high selectivity for the desired end product and low costs. Ethanol is a particularly desirable commodity because it is a component of almost all US gasoline and is often used as an intermediate in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
“The process resulting from our catalyst would contribute to the circular carbon economy, which involves reusing carbon dioxide,” said Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist in the Chemical and Engineering Department of Argonne and CASE scientist from UChicago at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, University of Chicago. This process would do so by electrochemically converting the CO2nd Converted from industrial processes such as fossil fuel power plants or alcohol fermentation plants into valuable raw materials at reasonable costs.
The team’s catalyst consists of atomically dispersed copper on a carbon powder support. This catalyst breaks down CO through an electrochemical reaction2nd and water molecules and selectively reassembles the broken molecules into ethanol under an external electric field. The electrocatalytic selectivity or “Faraday efficiency” of the process is over 90 percent, which is much higher than with any other reported process. In addition, the catalytic converter works stably over a long period of operation at low voltage.
“With this research, we discovered a new catalytic mechanism for converting carbon dioxide and water into ethanol,” said Tao Xu, professor of physical chemistry and nanotechnology at Northern Illinois University. “The mechanism should also provide a basis for developing highly efficient electrocatalysts for converting carbon dioxide into a variety of added-value chemicals.”
Because CO2nd is a stable molecule, the transformation of which into another molecule is usually energy intensive and costly. According to Liu, however, we could couple the electrochemical process of CO2nd-Umethanol conversion with our catalyst into the power grid and use of inexpensive electricity from renewable sources such as sun and wind outside of peak times. “Because the process runs at low temperature and pressure, it can start and respond quickly in response to the intermittent supply of renewable electricity.
The team’s research benefited from two user facilities of the DOE Office of Science in Argonne – the Advanced Photon Source (APS) and the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM) – as well as the Laboratory Computing Resource Center (LCRC) of Argonne. “Thanks to the high photon flux of the X-rays at the APS, we recorded the structural changes in the catalyst during the electrochemical reaction,” said Tao Li, assistant professor at the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at North Illinois University and assistant scientist in the X-ray department at Argonne. These data, along with high-resolution electron microscopy at the CNM and computer modeling with the LCRC, showed a reversible conversion of atomically dispersed copper into clusters with three copper atoms each using a low voltage level. The CO2ndEthanol catalysis takes place on these tiny copper clusters. This finding provides information on how the catalytic converter can be further improved through rational design.
“We have used this approach to create several new catalysts and have found that they are all highly efficient in converting CO2nd to other hydrocarbons, “said Liu.” We plan to continue this research in collaboration with the industry to advance this promising technology. ”
Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide to ethanol
Haiping Xu et al., Highly Selective Electrocatalytic CO2 Reduction to Ethanol Using Metal Clusters Dynamically Formed from Atomically Dispersed Copper, Natural energy (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41560-020-0666-x
Provided by the Argonne National Laboratory
Quote: Researchers discover a new electrocatalyst for the conversion of carbon dioxide into liquid fuel (2020, August 5th), released on August 6th, 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2020-08-electrocatalyst-carbon-dioxide-liquid -fuel.html was retrieved
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