A chemical system developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago can efficiently perform the first step in the process of creating syngas, gasoline and other energy-rich products out of carbon dioxide.
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 cata
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University of Illinois at Chicago