Researchers at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) in collaboration with Fraunhofer Umsicht in Oberhausen and Fritz-Haber Institute Berlin have made new discoveries about ‘mineral pentlandite’ as a potential and cheap catalyst for carbon dioxide recycling.
The findings of the study were published in the recent issue of the journal Chemical Science, where the researchers explained why pentlandite should be considered as a possible alternative to precious metal catalysts. Previously, pentlandite was used as a catalyst for hydrogen production. In the new study, by adding a particular solvent, the researchers successfully utilized the mineral in conversion of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, one of the most common source materials in chemical industry.
Conversion of CO2 Replaces Hydrogen Production
According to study leader Dr. Ulf-Peter Apfel, the ability to covert carbon dioxide into key source materials for the chemical industry is a promising approach towards combatting climate change. However, many affordable and readily available catalysts for carbon dioxide reduction are still not known, he added. Dr. Apfel is also the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry I in Bochum.
Potentially suitable catalysts, including pentlandite for recycling CO2 primarily facilitate another chemical reaction such as production of hydrogen. Nonetheless, the researchers have successfully converted pentlandite to be a catalyst for carbon dioxide. In the study experiment, the research team generated electrodes from the mineral and examined the conditions on which the synthesis of hydrogen and carbon monoxide took place at their surface.
By considering presence of water at the surface of the electrode as a decisive factor, the researchers noticed that a lot of water moved the reaction towards hydrogen production while carbon monoxide production had a little amount of water. In order to generate the mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, the water content was adjusted. According to Dr. Apfel, this type of synthetic gas mixture play an important role in the chemical industry.
Pentlandite, a Stable Catalyst
The mineral consists of iron, nickel, and sulfur as well as resembles naturally occurring active enzyme centers for catalysis such as hydrogen-producing hydrogenases. Stability is one of the huge advantages of mineral pentlandite and can remain stable, even when confronted with other chemical compounds that occur in industrial emissions and damage many catalysts, Dr. Apfel said.