A novel "co-catalyst" system using inexpensive, easy to fabricate carbon-based nanofiber materials efficiently converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting-material for synthesizing fuels. The findings have been published online in advance of print in the journal Nature Communications.
"I believe this can open a new field for the design of inexpensive and efficient catalytic systems for the many researchers already working with these easily manipulated advanced carbon materials," says Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering and principal investigator on the study.
Researchers have spent decades trying to find an efficient, commercially viable way to chemically "reduce," or lower the oxidation state, of carbon dioxide. The UIC researchers approached the problem in a new way.
Although reducing carbon dioxide is a two-step process, chemists had commonly used a single catalyst, Salehi-Khojin said. He and his colleagues experimented with using different catalysts for each step.
In previous work, Salehi-Khojin used an ionic liquid to catalyze the first step of the reaction, and silver for the final reduction to carbon monoxide. The co-catalyst system was more efficient than single-catalyst carbon dioxide reduction systems, he said.
But silver is expensive. So he and his coworkers set out to see if a relatively new class of metal-free catalysts – graphitic carbon structures doped with other reactive atoms – might work in place of the silver.
They tried a common structural material, carbon nanofibers, which was doped with nitrogen, as a substitute for silver to catalyze the second step.
When these carbon materials are used as catalysts, the doping atoms, most often nitrogen, drive the reduction reaction. But, through careful study of this particular reaction, the researchers found that it was not the nitrogen that was the catalyst.
"It was the carbon atom sitting next to the dopant that was responsible," said Mohammad Asadi, a UIC graduate student who is one of two first-authors of the study.
"We were very surprised at first," Asadi said.
But as they continued to characterize the reaction it became clear not only that carbon was catalyzing the reaction, but that the co-catalyst system was more efficient than silver, "showing substantial synergistic effects," Asadi said.
Bijandra Kumar, UIC research scholar and the other first-author of the paper, said the team "uncovered the hidden mechanism" of the co-catalyzed reaction, which has "opened up a lot of options for designing inexpensive and efficient catalyst system for carbon dioxide conversion."
"Further, one can imagine that using atomically-thin, two-dimensional graphene nano-sheets, which have extremely high surface area and can easily be designed with dopant atoms like nitrogen, we can develop even far more efficient catalyst systems," Kumar said.
"If the reaction happened on the dopant, we would not have much freedom in terms of structure," said Salehi-Khojin. In that case, little could be done to increase the efficiency or stability of the reaction.
But with the reaction happening on the carbon, "we have enormous freedom" to use these very advanced carbon materials to optimize the reaction, he said.
The researchers hope that their research leads to commercially viable processes for the production of syngas and even gasoline from carbon dioxide.
Co-authors are Davide Pisasale, Suman Sinha-Ray, Jeremiah Abiade and Alexander Yarin from UIC and Brian Rosen and Richard Haasch from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The study was supported in part by UIC. The work was carried out in part at the Frederick Seitz Materials Research Laboratory at the Urbana-Champaign campus.
UIC ranks among the nation's leading research universities and is Chicago's largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, please visit http://www.uic.edu.
NOTE: Please refer to the institution as the University of Illinois at Chicago on first reference and UIC on second reference. "University of Illinois" and "U. of I." are often assumed to refer to our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign.
Jeanne Galatzer-Levy | EurekAlert!
Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world
08.02.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik IWS
New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components
23.01.2017 | Evonik Industries AG
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy