2012 April

Defects make catalysts perfect

Thursday, 26th April 2012Publication highlights

Insights into the process which converts carbon dioxide into methanol could make it possible to recycle greenhouse gas

There is now one less mystery in chemical production plants. For many decades industry has been producing methanol on a large scale from a mixture of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, as well as hydrogen. An international team, including chemists from the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, has now clarified why the catalyst used in this process – copper and zinc oxide particles and a small portion of aluminium oxide – works so well. They also discovered why this reaction accelerator has to be produced in the tried and tested way. The researchers established that defects in an as yet unknown combination with mixing of copper and zinc oxide at the catalyst’s surface are the reason why the catalysts are so active. These findings could make a contribution to further improving the catalyst, and also help researchers develop catalysts that convert pure carbon dioxide efficiently. These could be used to recycle the greenhouse gas that is produced when fossil fuels burn. (read more)

Original publication:

Malte Behrens, Felix Studt, Igor Kasatkin, Stefanie Kühl, Michael Hävecker, Frank Abild-Pedersen, Stefan Zander, Frank Girgsdies, Patrick Kurr, Benjamin-Louis Kniep, Michael Tovar, Richard W. Fischer, Jens K. Nørskov, Robert Schlögl

The Active Site of Methanol Synthesis over Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 Industrial Catalysts

ScienceExpress, 19 April 2012; doi: 10.1126/science.1219831