We are on the cover of Surface Science (Farahnaz Maleki made this very nice picture) and check out the tweet of @ElsevierPhysics:

Researchers from ORNL found that copper nano-particles supported on carbon nano-spikes can electrochemically catalyse the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ethanol. These are great news, because because CO2 is a greenhouse gas and ethanol is a fuel, which means we are transforming waste to fuel! Industrially, the process could be used for the storage of excess electricity from renewable energy sources. The CO2 is dissolved in water and the catalyst electrochemically transforms it directly to ethanol. The yield is 63%!

To compare and predict the performance of heterogeneous catalysts, it is important to have a standard way to describe the catalytic activity. The  catalytic activity describes how good a catalyst is working for a given reaction. When we have a normalized measure for the catalytic activity, we can compare different catalysts and find out which is the best one. But this means, that we have to do a lot of experiments and try and fail until we found a good catalyst. It would be better, if we could predict whether a material will be a good catalysts for a given reaction or not.

The catalytic activity is dependent on the physical and chemical properties of the catalyst material, and of course the reaction conditions, i.e. temperature, pressure and the reactant concentrations. So, if we want to predict the catalytic activity of a material, we have to have information about the material's properties. As we will see in the following, a few parameters can be sufficient to get an idea on the performance of a material as a catalyst for a given reaction. To predict the catalyst quality we can use the Sabatier principle.

...continue reading "Principles for the Design of New Heterogeneous Catalysts"

CO2 is a greenhouse gas and to reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, there are three possibilities: We can minimize its production, we can store it and we can use it to make other chemical compounds. Scientists are trying realize all three possibilities to reduce the CO2 concentration in the air. There are several challenges to face, such as to make the 400ppm CO2 content of the atmosphere into usable quantities of CO2 in proper density.

Of course, it would be nice to transform CO2 into "value-added" chemicals, which are for instance methanol, fuels or methane. There are several catalysts that can transform CO2 into these chemicals and research is done to optimize these catalysts for an efficient industrial use.

...continue reading "Transforming Carbon Dioxide into Methane!"