A recent study led by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), in collaboration with University of Pittsburgh, has unveiled a breakthrough catalyst for the electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water into formic acid.
The catalyst, which can be used as a hydrogen carrier in the new clean energy economy, sets a record for its efficiency and selectivity in the conversion process.
Formic acid, a versatile liquid product, holds potential applications in fuel cells, agriculture, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, NETL said in a statement announcing the study results.
Moreover, it serves a crucial role in the nation’s decarbonization goals as a green hydrogen carrier, offering a liquid form that mitigates challenges associated with compressing, transporting, and storing gaseous hydrogen.
The research focused on optimizing the catalyst formulation to enhance performance, achieving activity and selectivity levels among the highest reported in relevant literature, according to NETL’s lead author Thuy Duong Nguyen Phan.
The team explored the addition of sulfur into tin-based catalysts, a process known as doping, to improve the catalyst’s electrochemical activity and selectivity in converting CO2.
Surprisingly, the study found that even at a low sulfur content of around 1.4%, there was a notable five-fold improvement in conversion performance compared to an undoped catalyst.
This discovery highlights the significant impact of a minimal amount of sulfur dopant on catalyst performance.
The findings contribute valuable insights into the design of high-performance electrocatalysts for CO2 conversion, aligning with the nation’s transition towards a clean energy economy driven by hydrogen.
Electrochemical CO2 reduction, particularly into renewable chemicals like formic acid, represents a promising avenue for recycling carbon emissions.
The NETL-led research, published in the Applied Catalysis B: Environmental journal, elucidates the intricate relationship between sulfur dopant levels and catalyst performance, offering a roadmap for further advancements in sustainable energy technologies.