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.
The project results have been published in a number of English-language research journals, including Journal of Materials Chemistry A and ChemSusChem, and also two articles have been written for ACS Catalysis.
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.
“It has been proved that using nitrogen to modify a carbon carrier with the platinum group metals or copper fastened on it steps up formic acid decomposition when in contact with the catalyst. In the process, hydrogen release intensifies explosively, and hydrogen can be used to produce electricity,” explained Lyubov Bulusheva, the project leader and a chief research fellow at the Institute of Inorganic Chemistry.
The researchers believe the results of these experiments could lead to the development of new, active and very stable catalysts enabling hydrogen production from a variety of compounds. The scientists are shooting for a much broader range of catalytic reactions for the isolated atom catalysts to step up dramatically.
The Siberians’ international colleagues include researchers from the University of Limerick (Ireland), the University of Parma (Italy), as well as two research centers in Spain (nanoGUNE) and the UK (SuperSTEM).