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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

KAUST team alters atomic composition of MoS2 to boost performance as water-splitting catalyst for H2 production

April 13, 2017

Researchers at KAUST have developed and used a novel way of increasing the chemical reactivity of a two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide material to produce a cheap and effective catalyst for water splitting to produce hydrogen. This technique may also have potential benefits for other manufacturing industries.

One route to hydrogen generation is by electrolysis: passing an electrical current through water via two electrodes to cause a chemical reaction that breaks the water molecule into its component hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The speed of this hydrogen evolution reaction can be increased using a catalyst on the electrodes. Platinum is a perfect material for the job, but is it very expensive.

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Elemental boron effective photothermocatalyst for the conversion of CO2 for fuels and chemicals

April 11, 2017

Researchers in Japan and China developed an efficient method for CO2 reduction over elemental boron catalysts in the presence of only water and light irradiation through a photothermocatalytic process. This could form the basis of a new, more efficient process for converting the greenhouse gas CO2 into a useful carbon source for the production of fuels and chemical products.

The “self-heating” boron catalyst makes particularly efficient use of sunlight to reduce CO2, serving as a light harvester, photothermal converter, hydrogen generator, and catalyst in one. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

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Renewable plastic precursor could reduce cost of cellulosic ethanol by >$2/gallon

April 10, 2017

A team of chemical and biological engineers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison has developed a new chemical pathway a way to produce from biomass a valuable compound—1,5-pentanediol, a plastic precursor primarily used to make polyurethanes and polyester plastics—that they estimate could lower the cost of cellulosic ethanol by more than two dollars per gallon.

The highly efficient approach devised by Professor George Huber and collaborators is much cheaper than a previously reported method—direct hydrogenolysis of tetrahydrofurfuryl alcohol (THFA)—and represents the first economically viable way of producing 1,5-pentanediol from biomass. A paper on their work is published in the journal ChemSusChem.

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China team develops highly efficient catalyst for low-temperature aqueous phase refoming of methanol to produce hydrogen

April 01, 2017

Researchers in China, along with colleagues in the US, have developed a new catalyst that shows outstanding hydrogen-production activity and stability in the low-temperature aqueous phase reforming of methanol (APRM).

In a paper in the journal Nature, the team reports that platinum (Pt) atomically dispersed on α-molybdenum carbide (α-MoC) enables low-temperature (150–190 ˚C), base-free hydrogen production through APRM, with an average turnover frequency reaching 18,046 moles of hydrogen per mole of platinum per hour. The new catalyst, the researchers suggest, paves a way towards a commercially achievable hydrogen-storage strategy.

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Aalto University team develops promising new electrocatalyst for hydrogen evolution reaction; one-hundredth the amount of Pt

March 26, 2017

A group of Aalto University (Finland) researchers led by professors Tanja Kallio and Kari Laasonen has developed a manufacturing method for hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) electrocatalysts that use only one-hundredth of the amount of platinum generally used in commercial products.

They achieved pseudo atomic-scale dispersion of Pt—i.e. individual atoms or sub-nanometer clusters—on the sidewalls of single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) with a simple and readily up-scalable electroplating deposition method. These SWNTs activated with an ultra-low amount of Pt exhibit a similar activity to that of a commercial Pt/C with a notable higher (~66-333 fold) Pt loading for catalyzing hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) under the acidic conditions required in proton exchange membrane technology. A paper on their work is published in the journal ACS Catalysis.

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Researchers create efficient, simple-to-manufacture photoanode for solar water-splitting

March 24, 2017

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Houston created an efficient, simple-to-manufacture core/shell photoanode with a highly active oxygen evolution electrocatalyst shell (FeMnP) and semiconductor core (rutile TiO2) for the photoelectrochemical oxygen evolution reaction (PEC-OER) for solar water splitting.

The lab of Kenton Whitmire, a Rice professor of chemistry, teamed up with researchers at the University of Houston and discovered that growing a layer of an active catalyst directly on the surface of a light-absorbing nanorod array produced an artificial photosynthesis material that could split water at the full theoretical potential of the light-absorbing semiconductor with sunlight. The results appear in two new studies. The first, on the creation of the catalytic films, appears in Chemistry: A European Journal. The second, which details the creation of photoanodes, appears in ACS Nano.

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Cambridge team demonstrates light-driven photoreforming of unprocessed biomass to H2 at room temperature

March 14, 2017

A team of scientists at the University of Cambridge has reported the light-driven photoreforming of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin to H2 using semiconducting cadmium sulfide quantum dots in alkaline aqueous solution.

The system operates under visible light, is stable beyond six days and is even able to reform unprocessed lignocellulose, such as wood and paper, under solar irradiation at room temperature, presenting an inexpensive route to drive aqueous proton reduction to H2 through waste biomass oxidation. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Energy.

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IU team creates efficient nanographene-Re electro- and photo-catalyst for efficient reduction of CO2 to CO

March 09, 2017

Researchers at Indiana University Bloomington have synthesized a nanographene–Re (Rhenium) complex that functions as an efficient electrocatalyst and photocatalyst for the selective reduction of CO2 to CO for subsequent conversion to fuels.

The complex can selectively electrocatalyze CO2 reduction to CO in tetrahydrofuran at −0.48 V vs NHE—the least negative potential reported for a molecular catalyst. In addition, the complex can absorb a significant spectrum of visible light to photo-catalyze the chemical transformation without the need for a photo-sensitizer. A report on their work is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Texas A&M team developing photocatalyst to turn CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels

March 06, 2017

Researchers with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University, led by Dr. Ying Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering, are developing a photocatalyst to convert CO2 into renewable hydrocarbon fuels. The photocatalyst material acts as a semiconductor, absorbing the sunlight which excites the electrons in the semiconductor and gives them the electric potential to reduce water and CO2 into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which together can be converted to liquid hydrocarbon fuels, said Li.

The first step of the process involves capturing CO2 from emissions sources. The material, which is a hybrid of titanium oxide and magnesium oxide, uses the magnesium oxide to absorb the CO2 and the titanium oxide to act as the photocatalyst.

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Light over heat: UV-driven rhodium nanoparticles catalyze conversion of CO2 to methane

February 27, 2017

Duke University researchers have engineered rhodium nanoparticles that can harness the energy in ultraviolet light and use it to catalyze the conversion of carbon dioxide to methane, a key building block for many types of fuels. An open-access paper on the work is published in Nature Communications.

Industrial-scale catalysis for fuels and materials generally relies upon heated catalysts for heterogeneous catalytic reactions with large activation energies. Such catalytic processes demand high energy inputs, shorten catalyst lifetimes through sintering deterioration and require product selectivity to mitigate unfavorable side reactions. Researchers have recently discovered that plasmonic metal nanoparticles are photocatalytically active, and that product selectivity may be achieved by tuning photon and LSPR (localized surface plasmon resonances) energies.

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Toyota’s new three-way catalyst reduces precious metal usage by 20%; improving uniformity of flow with FLAD

February 22, 2017

Toyota Motor Corporation announced the commercial availability of a new, smaller three-way catalyst for the treatment of NOx, CO and unburned hydrocarbons from gasoline engines that uses 20% less precious metal in approximately 20% less volume, while maintaining the same exhaust gas purification performance.

The catalyst uses the world’s first integrally-molded Flow Adjustable Design Cell (FLAD) substrate. FLAD features a different cell cross-sectional area at the inner portion compared to that at the outer portion. Innovative design and manufacturing technologies have allowed for the mass production of the new catalyst, which will gradually be installed in new vehicle models, starting with the Lexus LC 500h later this year.

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PNNL team develops fastest synthetic catalyst for H2 production; controlling structural dynamics for 1,000x performance boost

February 06, 2017

Using a natural catalyst from bacteria for inspiration, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have now developed the fastest synthetic catalyst for hydrogen production—producing 45 million molecules per second—by controlling the structural dynamics of the molecular catalyst. Instead of a costly metal such as platinum, this catalyst uses inexpensive, abundant nickel at its core.

Although the catalyst requires more energy to run than a conventional platinum catalyst, the insight garnered from this result might eventually help make hydrogen fuel in an environmentally friendly, affordable way, the researchers report in the chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

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UNIST team boosts performance of perovskite catalyst for metal-air batteries & fuel cells using polypyrrole

January 24, 2017

A team of researchers from S. Korea’s UNIST, with colleagues from Northwestern University, have successfully developed a new way to increase the activity of perovskite oxide catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and/or the oxygen evolution reaction (OER) in rechargeable metal-air batteries and fuel cells simply by adding the conductive polymer polypyrrole. A paper on their work was published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Oxygen-related electrochemistry is important in next-generation energy conversion and storage. The oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is the cathodic process of fuel cells and metal air batteries for generating electricity; the reverse, the oxygen evolution reaction (OER), is the anodic processes for splitting water and charging metal air batteries.

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POSTECH, Hyundai team develops new more thermally robust catalyst for NOx reduction with diesel engines

January 23, 2017

A team from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in S. Korea, with colleagues from Hyundai Motors’s R&D group and the University of St. Andrews in the UK has developed a new, more thermally robust catalyst for NOx aftertreatment systems for diesel engines. A paper on their work is published in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

The catalyst—divalent copper ions fully exchanged into high-silica LTA zeolites(Cu-LTA)—demonstrated excellent maintenance of activity for NOx reduction with NH3 under vehicle-simulated conditions even after hydrothermal aging at 900 °C, a critical temperature that the current commercial Cu-SSZ-13 catalyst cannot overcome owing to thermal deactivation.

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NREL shows graded catalytic-protective layer boosts longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes for renewable hydrogen

January 09, 2017

Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed a method which boosts the longevity of high-efficiency photocathodes in photoelectrochemical water-splitting devices. Their works demonstrates the potential of utilizing a hybridized, heterogeneous surface layer as a cost-effective catalytic and protective interface for solar hydrogen production.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy, they show that annealing a bilayer of amorphous titanium dioxide (TiOx) and molybdenum sulfide (MoSx) deposited onto GaInP2 results in a photocathode with high catalytic activity and stability for the hydrogen evolution reaction. The study showed that the annealing results in a graded MoSx/MoOx/TiO2 layer that retains much of the high catalytic activity of amorphous MoSx but with stability similar to crystalline MoS2.

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Researchers demonstrate new nickel selenide catalyst for more efficient water splitting

December 19, 2016

A team of researchers from Missouri University of Science and Technology and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in Greece have developed a highly efficient transition metal selenide-based coordination complex, [Ni{(SePiPr2)2N}2] for oxygen evolution and hydrogen evolution reactions (OER and HER, respectively) in alkaline solution.

In a paper published in ChemSusChem describing their work, the researchers reported that very low overpotentials of 200 mV and 310 mV were required to achieve 10 mA cm−2 for OER and HER, respectively. The overpotential for OER is one of the lowest that has been reported up to now, making this one of the best OER electrocatalysts. In addition, this molecular complex exhibits an exceptionally high mass activity (111.02 A g−1) and a much higher turnover frequency (TOF) value (0.26 s−1) at a overpotential of 300 mV. The bifunctional electrocatalyst enables water electrolysis in alkaline solutions at a cell voltage of 1.54 V.

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Efficient and stable PtPb/Pt core/shell nanoplate catalysts for ORR in fuel cells; new way of introducing tensile strain

Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory; California State University–Northridge; Soochow University; Peking University; and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics have developed new catalysts for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells that can undergo 50,000 voltage cycles with a negligible decay in their catalytic activity and no apparent changes in their structure or elemental composition.

In a paper published in Science, the team reports on a class of platinum-lead/platinum (PtPb/Pt) core/shell nanoplate catalysts that exhibit large biaxial strains. (Modifying the electronic structure of catalysts can improve their performance; lattice strain (either compressive or tensile) modifies the distances between surface atoms and hence modifies catalytic activity. Earlier post.) The stable Pt (110) facets of the nanoplates have high ORR specific and mass activities that reach 7.8 milliampere (mA) per cm2 and 4.3 ampere per milligram of platinum at 0.9 volts versus the reversible hydrogen electrode (RHE), respectively.

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Single Pt atom catalysts show enhanced catalytic activity for water-splitting; potential to drive down electrolysis cost

December 12, 2016

A research team from University of Western Ontario, McMaster University and Beijing Computational Science Research Center has developed an effective synthesis method to produce isolated single platinum (Pt) atoms and clusters for use as catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER) in water splitting to produce hydrogen.

In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers reported that the single Pt atom catalysts exhibit significantly enhanced catalytic activity (up to 37 times) and high stability in comparison to the state-of-the-art commercial platinum/carbon (Pt/C) catalysts.

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Stanford team uses battery electrode materials to boost platinum catalytic performance for fuel cells

November 25, 2016

A team at Stanford University has developed a method for using battery electrode materials directly and continuously to control the lattice strain of a platinum (Pt) catalyst, thereby boosting catalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells by up to nearly 90%. A paper on their work is published in Science.

Modifying the electronic structure of catalysts can improve their performance; lattice strain (either compressive or tensile) modifies the distances between surface atoms and hence modifies catalytic activity. However, the common approach of using metal overlayers to induce strain has some control issues, such as introducing ligand effects.

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S. Korean researchers develop new catalytic pathway for direct conversion of CO2 to liquid hydrocarbon fuels

November 21, 2016

A team led by Professor Jae Sung Lee at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), with colleagues at Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), have developed a new pathway for the direct conversion of CO2 to liquid transportation fuels by reaction with renewable hydrogen produced by solar water splitting.

The new carbon capture and utilization (CCU) system is enabled by their discovery of a new catalyst that produces liquid hydrocarbon (C5+) selectivity of ∼65% and greatly suppresses CH4 formation to 2–3%. This selectivity is unprecedented for direct catalytic CO2 hydrogenation and is very similar to that of conventional CO-based Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, the team reports in a paper published in Applied Catalysis B: Environmental.

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Ultrafine jagged Pt nanowires extremely efficient ORR catalysts; 50x more power than current commercial catalyst

November 18, 2016

An international team led by researchers at UCLA and Caltech has demonstrated that altering the form of platinum nanoscale wires from a smooth surface to a jagged one can significantly reduce the amount of precious metal required as a catalyst for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) in fuel cells and thus lower the cost. According to the findings, the newly developed catalyst is so active that the amount of platinum required for a fuel cell could be 1/50 of what is needed today.

In a paper published in Science, the team reports that the jagged Pt nanowires exhibit an ECSA (electrochemical active surface area) of 118 m2 per gram Pt and a specific activity of 11.5 mA per square centimeter for ORR for a mass activity of 13.6 ampere per milligram Pt, nearly doubling previously reported best values. Reactive molecular dynamics simulations suggested that the highly stressed, under-coordinated rhombohedral-rich surface configurations of the jagged nanowire enhanced ORR activity versus more relaxed surfaces.

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Univ. Houston, Caltech team develops new earth-abundant, cost-effective catalyst for water-splitting

September 20, 2016

A team of researchers from the University of Houston and the California Institute of Technology has developed an active and durable earth-abundant transition metal dichalcogenide-based hybrid catalyst for water-splitting that exhibits high hydrogen evolution activity approaching the state-of-the-art platinum catalysts. The new catalyst also offers activity superior to that of most transition metal dichalcogenides (molybdenum sulfide, cobalt diselenide and so on).

The material is fabricated by growing ternary molybdenum sulfoselenide particles on self-standing porous nickel diselenide foam. In an open-access paper in the journal Nature Communications, the team said that their advance provides a different pathway to design cheap, efficient and sizable hydrogen-evolving electrode by simultaneously tuning the number of catalytic edge sites, porosity, heteroatom doping and electrical conductivity.

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SLAC, Stanford team develops new catalyst for water-splitting for renewable fuels production; 100x more efficient than other acid-stable catalysts

September 02, 2016

Researchers at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a new highly active and stable IrOx/SrIrO3 catalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction (OER).

The new catalyst outperforms known IrOx and ruthenium oxide (RuOx) systems, the only other OER catalysts that have reasonable activity in acidic electrolyte. Because it requires less of the rare and costly metal iridium, the new catalyst could bring down the cost of artifical photosynthetic processes that use sunlight to split water molecules—a key step in a renewable, sustainable pathway to produce hydrogen or carbon-based fuels that can power a broad range of energy technologies. The team published their results in the journal Science.

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SLAC, Utrecht Univ. team visualize poisoning of FCC catalysts used in gasoline production; seeing changes in pore network materials

August 31, 2016

Merging two powerful 3-D X-ray techniques, a team of researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Utrecht University in the Netherlands revealed new details of the metal poisoning process that clogs the pores of fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) catalyst particles used in gasoline production, causing them to lose effectiveness.

The team combined their data to produce a video that shows the chemistry of this aging process and takes the viewer on a virtual flight through the pores of a catalyst particle. More broadly, the approach is generally applicable and provides an unprecedented view of dynamic changes in a material’s pore space—an essential factor in the rational design of functional porous materials including those use for batteries and fuel cells. The results were published in an open access paper in Nature Communications.

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Dalian team synthesizes advanced catalytic layer for fuel cell MEAs; low Pt-loading, high mass activity

August 29, 2016

Researchers at Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics (China) have synthesized an advanced catalytic layer in the membrane electroide assembly (MEA) for proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) using vertically aligned polymer–polypyrrole (PPy) nanowire arrays as ordered catalyst supports.

In a paper published in the Journal of Power Sources, they report that a single cell fitted with their MEA yields a maximum performance of 762.1 mW cm−2 with a low Pt loading (0.241 mg Pt cm−2, anode + cathode). The advanced catalyst layer indicates better mass transfer in high current density than that of commercial Pt/C-based electrode. The mass activity is 1.08-fold greater than that of US Department of Energy (DOE) 2017 target.

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New approach for synthetic rubber for degradable tires: converting cyclopentene to polypentenamers

August 22, 2016

A team from the Texas A&M University campus in Qatar (TAMU-Qatar) and Caltech has developed a new way to make synthetic rubber; once this material is discarded, it can be easily degraded back to its chemical building blocks and reused in new tires and other products. The researchers will present their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Philadelphia.

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, nearly 270 million tires were discarded in the US in 2013—more than one tire per adult living in the country. Many of the non-degradable scrap tires get stockpiled in landfills. More than half go on to become tire-derived fuel—shredded scrap tires that get mixed with coal and other materials to help power cement kilns, pulp and paper mills and other plants. But environmentalists are concerned that the emissions from this practice could be adding harmful pollutants to the air.

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Vanderbilt, Nissan and Georgia Tech partner on new low PGM electrospun nanofiber catalysts for improved automotive fuel cells

August 09, 2016

Vanderbilt University, Nissan North America and Georgia Institute of Technology are collaborating to test a new technique to electospin low-platinum-metal-group (low PGM) electrocatalysts with a proton-conducting binder to improve durability and performance of fuel cell electrodes. The project is one of four awarded a combined $13 million by the Department of Energy program to advance fuel cell performance and durability and hydrogen storage technologies announced last month. (Earlier post.)

The $4.5-million collaboration is based on nanofiber mat technology developed by Peter Pintauro, the H. Eugene McBrayer Professor of Chemical Engineering at Vanderbilt, that replaces the conventional electrodes used in fuel cells. The nanofiber electrodes boost the power output of fuel cells by 30% while being less expensive and more durable than conventional catalyst layers.

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Argonne team discovers self-regenerating DLC tribofilm

August 05, 2016

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have discovered an ultra-durable, self-lubricating tribofilm that regenerates in the presence of oil, heat, and pressure—meaning that it will not wear away over the life of an engine. The film, reported yesterday in the journal Nature, develops when a new catalytic coating that can be applied to engine parts interacts with lubricating oil to create an extremely tough coating that almost eliminates wear.

Tests revealed the diamond-like carbon (DLC) tribofilm reduced friction by 25-40% and that wear was reduced to unmeasurable values. The discovery could have implications for the efficiency and durability of future engines and other moving metal parts that can be made to develop self-healing DLC tribofilms.

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UI, Argonne develop catalyst for more efficient solar-powered reduction of CO2 to CO for conversion to fuel

August 01, 2016

In a new study from the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers report devising a new transition metal dichalcogenide (TMDC) nanoarchitecture for catalytic electrochemical reduction of CO2 to carbon monoxide (CO) in an ionic liquid.

In their paper published in the journal Science, the researchers found that tungsten diselenide nanoflakes show a current density of 18.95 milliamperes per square centimeter, CO faradaic efficiency of 24%, and CO formation turnover frequency of 0.28 per second at a low overpotential of 54 millivolts. They also applied this catalyst in a light-harvesting artificial leaf platform that concurrently oxidized water in the absence of any external potential.

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Researchers identify pentlandite as equally efficient alternative to platinum for hydrogen production

July 27, 2016

Researchers have identified artificially-produced pentlandite (a natural ore, Fe4.5Ni4.5S8) as a direct ‘rock’ electrode without the need of further surface modifications for hydrogen evolution under acidic conditions. The pentlandite provides high activity and stability at low overpotential for H2 generation. According to their study, artificial pentlandite is just as efficient as the platinum electrodes commonly used today for the electrolytic production of hydrogen from water, but is lower cost.

A team headed by Dr. Ulf-Peter Apfel and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum describes the results of their work together with colleagues from the Max-Planck-Institute for Coal Research in Mülheim an der Ruhr and the Technical University of Bratislava in an open-access paper published in Nature Communications.

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Rice team develops “antenna-reactor” plasmonic catalysts for increased energy savings and efficiency in catalytic processes

July 24, 2016

Researchers at Rice University’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP), with colleagues at Princeton University, have developed a new method for uniting light-capturing photonic nanomaterials and high-efficiency metal catalysts, creating an “antenna-reactor” plasmonic catalyst.

By placing a catalytic reactor particle adjacent to a plasmonic antenna, the highly efficient and tunable light-harvesting capacities of plasmonic nanoparticles can be exploited to increase absorption and hot-carrier generation significantly in the reactor nanoparticles. The modularity of this approach provides for independent control of chemical and light-harvesting properties and paves the way for the rational, predictive design of efficient plasmonic photocatalysts, the researchers suggest in their open-access paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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UK team produces hydrogen from fescue grass via photocatalytic reforming

July 21, 2016

A team of researchers from the UK’s Cardiff University’s Cardiff Catalysis Institute and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that significant amounts of hydrogen can be unlocked from fescue grass—without significant pre-treatment—using sunlight and a metal-loaded titania photocatalyst. An open access paper on their work is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

Based on their study, the team proposed that the first step in their photoreforming of cellulose was the (photo)hydrolysis of cellulose into glucose, with the latter then undergoing reforming to hydrogen and CO2. It is the first time that this method has been demonstrated and could potentially lead to a sustainable way of producing hydrogen.

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Los Alamos team develops robust route to convert starch and sugar to C10 and C11 hydrocarbons; “potato-to-pump”

July 18, 2016

Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a route to convert oligosaccharides, such as starch, cellulose, and hemicelluloses to C10 and C11 hydrocarbons by using depolymerization followed by chain extension.

In a paper published in the journal ChemSusChem, they report on the robustness of the approach by performing a simple starch extraction from a Russet potato and subjecting it to their process. (They noted that the use of the potato was simply illustrative, and that the use of food crops for fuel production should be avoided.)

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Toyota Tsusho strategic equity investor in bio-BTX company Anellotech

July 11, 2016

Catalytic pyrolysis company Anellotech, which focuses on producing cost-competitive BTX (benzene, toluene and xylene) from non-food biomass, revealed Toyota Tsusho Corporation as a multinational strategic equity investor and corporate partner in the renewable aromatic chemicals supply chain. The renewable aromatic chemical can be used use in making plastics such as polyester, nylon, polycarbonate, polystyrene, or for renewable transportation fuels.

Toyota Tsusho is a member of the Toyota Group and is one of the major value chain partners (along with Suntory) in the Anellotech alliance, further validating the global market opportunity for Anellotech’s Bio-TCat technology.

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Researchers use ceria to trap platinum atoms, improving catalyst efficiency and enabling reduced loading

July 08, 2016

Researchers from the University of New Mexico, Washington State University, and GM Global R&D have developed a novel approach to trap platinum atoms used in catalysts, preventing their agglomeration and the resultant reduction of catalyst efficiency. By trapping the platinum to prevent agglomeration, the process enables the atoms to continue their activity, enabling lower loading and thus lower cost. A paper on the work is published in the journal Science.

Platinum is used as a catalyst in many clean energy systems, including in catalytic converters and fuel cells. The precious metal facilitates chemical reactions for many commonly used products and processes, such as converting poisonous carbon monoxide to less harmful carbon dioxide in catalytic converters. Because of platinum’s expense and scarcity, industries are continually looking to use less of it and to develop catalysts that more efficiently use individual platinum atoms in reactions. At high temperatures, however, the atoms become mobile and fly together into clumps, which reduces catalyst efficiency and performance. This is the primary reason catalytic converters are tested regularly for effectiveness.

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KTH team develops new cost-effective water-splitting electrocatalyst for H2 production

June 27, 2016

Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed a new cost-effective electrocatalyst for water-splitting to produce hydrogen.

The monolayer of nickel–vanadium-layered double hydroxide shows a current density of 27 mA cm−2 (57 mA cm−2 after ohmic-drop correction) at an overpotential of 350 mV for water oxidation. This performance is comparable to those of the best-performing electrocatalysts that are composed of non-precious materials—nickel–iron-layered double hydroxides for water oxidation in alkaline media—the researchers report in an open access paper in Nature Communications.

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USC team develops new robust iridium catalyst for release of hydrogen from formic acid

June 17, 2016

A team of researchers at the University of Southern California has developed a robust, reusable iridium catalyst that enables hydrogen gas release from neat formic acid. The catalyst works under mild conditions in the presence of air, is highly selective and affords millions of turnover numbers (TONs).

Although other catalysts exist for both formic acid dehydrogenation and carbon dioxide reduction, solutions to date on hydrogen gas release rely on volatile components that reduce the weight content of stored hydrogen and/or introduce fuel cell poisons; this new catalyst does not. An open-access paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

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LLNL 3-D printed biocatalytic polymer turns methane to methanol at room temperature and pressure

June 15, 2016

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists have combined biology and 3-D printing to create the first reactor that can continuously produce methanol from methane at room temperature and pressure.

Methane monooxygenases (MMOs), found in methanotrophic bacteria, are selective catalysts for methane activation and conversion to methanol under mild conditions; however, these enzymes are not amenable to standard enzyme immobilization approaches. Using particulate methane monooxygenase (pMMO), the researchers created a biocatalytic polymer material that converts methane to methanol. They embedded the material within a silicone lattice to create mechanically robust, gas-permeable membranes, and the direct printing of micron-scale structures with controlled geometry. The enzymes retain up to 100% activity in the polymer construct.

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EPA announces 2016 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners

June 14, 2016

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners. The annual awards recognize landmark green chemistry technologies developed by industrial pioneers and leading scientists that turn climate risk and other environmental problems into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award winners were honored at a ceremony in Portland, Ore. on 13 June. The winners and their innovative technologies are:

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Siluria Technologies and Air Liquide partner to develop and deliver novel catalytic process technologies to global energy markets

June 07, 2016

Siluria Technologies has entered into a strategic partnership with Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions, the engineering and construction business of the Air Liquide Group, to collaborate on the development of novel catalytic processes utilizing both companies’ expertise in gas conversion technologies.

The novel process offering will be developed using the proven innovation platform that has given rise to Siluria’s revolutionary Oxidative Coupling of Methane (OCM) technology (earlier post), but will be focused on entirely new fields beyond the companies’ current product offerings. Siluria and Air Liquide Global E&C Solutions have agreed to work as partners in the commercialization—including marketing and licensing—of the jointly developed process technologies resulting from the collaboration.

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New catalyst system produces H2 and CO2 from formic acid at low temperatures

An international team led by researchers at the University of Melbourne has developed a new catalyst system for the efficient removal of CO2 from formic acid (HO2CH), resulting in the production of CO2 and H2 at a low temperature of 70 °C. Other methods for producing hydrogen from formic acid have required high temperatures, and also produce waste products.

The work, described in an open-access paper in Nature Communications marks a new frontier in catalyst design at the molecular level. Such catalysts are formulated to produce highly selective chemical reactions.

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Harvard “bionic leaf 2.0” exceeds efficiency of photosynthesis in nature; hydrogen and liquid fuels

June 03, 2016

Researchers at Harvard have created a hybrid water splitting–biosynthetic system based on a biocompatible Earth-abundant inorganic catalyst system to split water into molecular hydrogen and oxygen (H2 and O2) at low driving voltages.

Grown in contact with these catalysts, the bacterium Ralstonia eutropha then consumes the produced H2 to synthesize biomass and fuels or chemical products from low CO2 concentration in the presence of O2. The scalable system has a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~50% when producing bacterial biomass and liquid fuel alcohols, scrubbing 180 grams of CO2 per kWh of electricity. Coupling this hybrid device to existing photovoltaic systems would yield a CO2 reduction energy efficiency of ~10%, exceeding that of natural photosynthetic systems, the researchers said in their paper published in the journal Science.

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Researchers report cost-effective synthesis of NiFe-layered double hydroxides nanosheets as efficient OER catalyst

May 31, 2016

A team from Brown University and Lakehead University (Canada) have developed a method for the facile and cost-effective synthesis of NiFe-layered double hydroxides (LDH) nanosheets to serve as efficient catalyst for the oxygen evolution reaction in an alkaline environment.

Compared to previously reported LDH catalysts, the new nanosheets exhibit a much higher oxygen evolution activity. The overpotential of catalytic OER was very low and the Tafel slope (Tafel analysis is a tool for comparing electrocatalytic activity and elucidating the reaction mechanism) was close to that of a commercial RuO2 catalyst. A paper describing their work is published in the journal Electrochemistry Communications.

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ORNL team engineers 1st high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst; outperforms platinum; potential for new electrochemistry systems

May 28, 2016

A research team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has created the first high-performance, two-way oxide catalyst and filed a patent application for the invention. The new bi-directional catalyst can outperform platinum in oxygen reduction and oxygen evolution reactions (ORR and OER). The accomplishment is reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

The discovery may guide the development of new material systems for electrochemistry. Energy storage devices, such as fuel cells and rechargeable batteries, convert chemical energy into electricity through a chemical reaction. Catalysts accelerate this process, making it more efficient. In particular, an oxygen reduction catalyst extracts electrons from oxygen molecules, while an oxygen evolution catalyst drives the reaction in the opposite direction. Catalytic reactions that proceed in both directions are required for charging and discharging of regenerative energy storage devices.

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Clariant to scale-up catalysts for Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology; renewable diesel and hydrogen

May 19, 2016

Gevo, Inc. has entered into an agreement with Clariant Corp., one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies, to develop catalysts to enable Gevo’s Ethanol-to-Olefins (ETO) technology.

Gevo’s ETO technology, which uses ethanol as a feedstock, produces tailored mixes of propylene, isobutylene and hydrogen, which are valuable as standalone molecules, or as feedstocks to produce other products such as diesel fuel and commodity plastics, that would be drop-in replacements for their fossil-based equivalents. ETO is a chemical process, not a biological process as is Gevo’s conversion of biomass to isobutanol.

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