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A zinc-based catalyst makes syngas by co-electrolysis

By Paul Grad |

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia; www.unsw.edu.au), led by professor Rose Amal, have shown that by making zinc oxide at very high temperatures using a technique called flame spray pyrolysis (FSP), they can create nanoparticles that catalyze the co-electrolysis of CO2 and water into synthesis gas (syngas; H2 + CO). The researchers believe the method is less expensive and more scalable to the requirements of heavy industry than the methods available today.

In the process, humidified CO2 is fed to the electrolyzer. The ZnO catalyst is designed with two active sites, thereby simultaneously converting CO2 into CO, and H2O into H2. The H2-to-CO ratio (H/C ratio) can be varied by making small adjustments to the way the nanoparticles are burned by the FSP technique. This feature makes it possible to tailor the catalyst to meet the requirements for end-use applications.

The researchers say past attempts have used expensive catalyst materials, such as palladium, but their method is the first instance where an inexpensive and abundant material has been successfully applied to waste CO2 conversion.

The next phase of the research is to test the nanomaterials in a fluegas setting to ensure that the new catalyst can withstand the harsh conditions and other chemicals found in industrial waste gas.

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