Affordable catalyst for carbon dioxide recycling

November 19, 2018, Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum
Kai junge Puring, Stefan Piontek and Mathias Smialkowski (from left), members of the group led by Ulf-Peter Apfel, with the electroloysis cell in which the experiments were carried out. Credit: RUB, Marquard

A catalyst for carbon dioxide recycling, mineral pentlandite may also be a conceivable alternative to expensive precious metal catalysts. This is the result of a study conducted by researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), Fritz-Haber Institute Berlin and Fraunhofer Umsicht in Oberhausen. Pentlandite had previously been known as a catalyst for hydrogen production. By adding a suitable solvent, the researchers successfully utilised it to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The latter is a common source material in the chemical industry.

The research team headed by Dr. Ulf-Peter Apfel, Chair of Inorganic Chemistry I in Bochum, describes the findings together with their colleagues in the journal Chemical Science from 5 November 2018.

CO2 conversion replaces hydrogen production

"The conversion of CO2 into valuable source materials for the is a promising approach to combatting climate change," says Ulf-Peter Apfel. "However, we currently don't know many cheap and readily available catalysts for CO2 reduction." Moreover, potentially suitable catalysts primarily facilitate another chemical reaction, i.e. the synthesis of hydrogen—these including pentlandite. Nevertheless, the researchers have successfully converted the mineral to be a CO2 catalyst.

They generated electrodes from pentlandite and analysed under which conditions production of hydrogen or carbon monoxide took place at their surface. "The decisive factor was being present at the electrode surface," summarises Ulf-Peter Apfel. A lot of water shifted the reaction towards , a little water towards carbon monoxide production. By adjusting the water content, the researchers were thus able to generate carbon monoxide and hydrogen mixtures. "Synthetic gas mixtures like this one play a crucial role in the chemical industry," points out Apfel.

The researchers carried out the experiments in this electrolysis cell. Credit: RUB, Marquard
Stable catalyst

Pentlandite consists of iron, nickel and sulphur and resembles catalytically active enzyme centres that occur in nature, such as hydrogen-producing hydrogenases. "A huge advantage of this mineral is the fact that it remains stable when confronted with other chemical compounds that occur in industrial emissions and are poison to many catalysts," explains Apfel.

Explore further: Robust and inexpensive catalysts for hydrogen production

More information: Stefan Piontek et al, Bio-inspired design: bulk iron–nickel sulfide allows for efficient solvent-dependent CO2 reduction, Chemical Science (2018). DOI: 10.1039/c8sc03555e

Related Stories

Robust and inexpensive catalysts for hydrogen production

April 11, 2018

Researchers from the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB) and the University of Warwick were able to observe the smallest details of hydrogen production with the synthetic mineral pentlandite. This makes it possible to develop strategies ...

New catalyst for hydrogen production

July 27, 2016

With the aid of platinum catalysts, it is possible to efficiently produce hydrogen. However, this metal is rare and expensive. Researchers have discovered an alternative that is just as good, but less costly.

Hydrogen gas from enzyme production

December 6, 2017

Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum have uncovered a crucial reaction principle of hydrogen-producing enzymes. Teams led by Dr. Ulf-Peter Apfel in Bochum and Dr. Sven T. Stripp at Freie ...

Recommended for you

Materials chemists tap body heat to power 'smart garments'

January 22, 2019

Many wearable biosensors, data transmitters and similar tech advances for personalized health monitoring have now been "creatively miniaturized," says materials chemist Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, ...

New synthesis method for producing fluorinated piperidines

January 22, 2019

Synthetic molecules are essential for many products, including medicines, crop protection agents and special materials such as Teflon. These molecules have several components, which can be combined in a variety of ways, resulting ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.