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Tokyo Scientists Announce Breakthrough In CO2 Conversion Tech

  • Scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a new photocatalyst for CO2 reduction.
  • The new polymer-based photocatalysts helps efficiently convert CO2 into useful chemicals.
  • Made from abundant elements and requiring no complex post-synthesis treatment or modifications, it could pave the way for a new class of photocatalysts.

Tokyo Institute of Technology scientists developed a polymer-based photocatalyst for CO2 reduction that exhibits unprecedented performance. Made from abundant elements and requiring no complex post-synthesis treatment or modifications, it could pave the way for a new class of photocatalysts for efficiently converting CO2 into useful chemicals.

The idea is to convert CO2 into useful chemicals, such as carbon monoxide (CO) and formic acid (HCOOH). In particular, photocatalytic CO2 reduction systems use visible or ultraviolet light to drive CO2 reduction, much like how plants use sunlight to conduct photosynthesis. Over the past few years, scientists have reported many sophisticated photocatalysts based on metal-organic frameworks and coordination polymers (CPs). Unfortunately, most of them either require complex post-synthesis treatment and modifications or are made from precious metals.

In a recent study published in ACS Catalysis, the research team in Japan found a way to overcome these challenges. Led by Specially Appointed Assistant Professor Yoshinobu Kamakura and Professor Kazuhiko Maeda from Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), the team developed a new kind of photocatalyst for CO2 reduction based on a CP containing lead-sulfur (Pb-S) bonds. Known as KGF-9, the novel CP consists of an infinite (-Pb-S-) n structure with properties unlike any other known photocatalyst.

For instance, KGF-9 has no pores or voids, meaning that it has a low surface area. Despite this, however, it achieved a spectacular photoreduction performance. Under visible-light irradiation at 400 nm, KGF-9 demonstrated an apparent quantum yield (product yield per photon absorbed) of 2.6% and a selectivity of over 99% in the reduction of CO2 to formate (HCOO).

Prof. Maeda said, “These values are the highest yet reported for a precious metal-free, single-component photocatalyst-driven reduction of CO2 to HCOO. Our work could shed light on the potential of nonporous CPs as building units for photocatalytic CO2 conversion systems.”

Related: China Is Reselling U.S. LNG To Europe For Big Profits

In addition to its remarkable performance, KGF-9 is easier to synthesize and use compared to other photocatalysts. Since the active Pb sites (where CO2 reduction occurs) are already “installed” on its surface, KGF-9 does not require the presence of a cocatalyst, such as metal nanoparticles or metal complexes. Moreover, it requires no other post-synthesis modifications to operate at room temperature and under visible light illumination.

The team at Tokyo Tech is already exploring new strategies to increase the surface area of KGF-9 and boost its performance further. As the first photocatalyst with Pb(II) as an active center, there is a good chance that KGF-9 will pave the way to a more economically feasible CO2 reduction. In this regard, the research team concluded, “We believe that our study provides an unprecedented opportunity for developing a new class of inexpensive photocatalysts for CO2 reduction consisting of earth-abundant elements.”

***

This news is quite a turn for the catalyst field. First is Pb or lead, is a catalyst, which comes as a surprise by itself. Then there are no precious metals involved, at all. And its all tied together with a polymer!

Yes, its just now born in a research lab, but this just has to be a kick starter for expanding an even more and broader catalyst research effort. Perhaps chemistry is a field that is very far from being fully explored. The amount of new activity in the past year has been remarkable.

By Brian Westenhaus via New Energy & Fuel

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