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Using nanoparticles to convert CO2 into valuable resources

Illustration of nanoparticles

Enzymes use cascade reactions to produce complex molecules from relatively simple raw materials. Researchers have now copied this principle.

An international research team used nanoparticles to convert carbon dioxide into valuable raw materials. Scientists from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany and the University of New South Wales in Australia have adopted the principle of enzymes that produce complex molecules in multistage reactions. The team transferred this mechanism to metal nanoparticles, also known as nanostructures. Chemists used carbon dioxide to produce ethanol and propanol, which are common raw materials for the chemical industry.

The team is led by Professor Wolfgang Schumann from the Bohemian Center for Electrochemistry and Professor Corina Andronescu from the University of Duisburg-Essen, along with the Australian team led by Professor Justin Justin Gooding and Professor Richard Dillon of the 201 American Journal of the Year.

"Transferring cascade enzyme reactions to catalytically active nanoparticles can be a crucial step in the design of catalysts," says Wolfgang Schumann.

Particle with two active centers

The enzymes have various active cascade reaction centers that specialize in specific reaction steps. For example, a single enzyme can produce a complex product of relatively simple starting material. To mimic this concept, the researchers synthesized a silver-core particle surrounded by a porous layer of copper. The silver core serves as the first active center, the copper layer as the second. The intermediate products formed on the silver core then react in the copper layer to form more complex molecules, which eventually leave the particle.

Peter O & # 39; Mara & Patrick Wilde

Peter O'Mara of Sydney (left) and Patrick Wilde of Bochum working with an electrochemical CO2 reduction cell. © RUB, Kramer

In the current work, the German-Australian team has shown that the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide can occur with the help of nanostructures. Several steps of the reaction of the silver core and the copper casing transform the starting material into ethanol or propanol.

"There are other nanoparticles that can produce these CO products2 without the cascade principle, ”says Wolfgang Schumann. "However, they require significantly more energy."

Researchers are now seeking to develop the concept of cascade reaction into nanoparticles, so that they can selectively produce even more valuable products such as ethylene or butanol.

Reference: "Cascade reactions at nanostructures: spatially separated active sites in nanoparticle agro-porous-co-schools for reducing more carbon dioxide to higher organic molecules" by Peter B. Omar, Patrick Wilde, Tania M. Benedetti, Corina Andronescu, Sushan Zheon, J. Goodastine Gooding, Richard D. Tilly and Wolfgang Schumann, August 25, 2019, Journal of the American Chemical Society.
DOI: 10.1021 / eggs.9b07310

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