19 Mar '18
Scientists at the Nikolaev Institute of Inorganic Chemistry, the Boreskov Institute of Catalysis and the Novosibirsk State University (all three based in Novosibirsk, Siberia) in partnership with international colleagues have modified metal and graphene fragment based catalysts with nitrogen atoms. This is said to have triggered a much faster reaction with lots of hydrogen released in the process, a technology that may one day be used to produce electrical energy in abundance.
Approximately 90% of chemical products result from the use of catalysts, or substances that step up chemical reactions. In large-scale industrial processes the platinum group metals are often used—despite the high cost of the metals. Atoms placed on the surface of metal nanoparticles typically serve as active centers for such reactions.
In this project, the researchers created single atom catalysts, with metal atoms isolated from one another and stabilized with an inert substance that carries the catalyst’s active centers, a means of effectively using each metal atom, the scientists said. With the metal atom tied strongly to the carrier surface such a catalyst could show stable performance for a long time.
The scientists used a carbon carrier based on graphene fragments with carbon atoms on the end of each fragment. In an experiment, the researchers replaced some of the carbon atoms with nitrogen atoms. That is reported to have caused exponential growth in hydrogen production as formic acid, a compound to be easily derived from biomass, was decomposing.
The results of these experiments are expected to lead to the development of new, active and very stable catalysts enabling hydrogen production from a variety of compounds.