The utilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) is beneficial from an economic and environmental standpoint.
Not only is recycling gaseous CO2 affordable, it also reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.
One way that chemists can use CO2 is by converting it to other compounds. Current studies suggest that these conversions can be performed efficiently in the future, when paired with renewable but intermittent sources of energy, such as wind and solar energy.
However, the electrochemical conversion of CO2 to carbon-related products is generally sluggish as CO2 is a thermodynamically stable compound.
In addition to that, it competes against other processes.
This decreases the formation of desired products.
One interesting product that is a result of these processes is formate. Formate is a stable, non-toxic liquid that has a lot of potential. It can be used in hydrogen carrier systems and formic acid fuel cells.
One major drawback is that the production of formate requires highly active and highly selective electrocatalysts. Based on reports studied in the past, the most common metal-based catalysts (such as silver, gold, and nickel) show a low affinity for formate production.
Furthermore, many complications arise with compounds that show a high selectivity for formate production, including the cost of maintaining these catalysts, their toxicity and potential environmental drawbacks.
Recent research, however, shows that tin and bismuth are possible useful products as well being cost-friendly and environmentally-friendly in comparison to past alternatives.
Zhengyu Bai, Henan Normal University Professor, said, “It’s critical to improve selectivity, activity, and stability of catalysts for CO2 electroreduction. We reveal the orbital interactions of the bimetallic catalyst, effectively shifting reaction pathways toward formate formation.”
Professor Bai, along with Professor Zhongwei Chen of the University of Waterloo, and their co-workers are designing a highly selective electrocatalyst for the conversion of CO2 to formate using tin and bismuth.
The catalyst consists of tin nanosheets interspersed with bismuth particles.
Interactions between the two compounds facilitate the conversion of CO2 with a remarkably high efficiency.
Theoretical calculations, outlined in their research, suggests that the high efficiency is a result of the strong orbital overlap between tin and bismuth.
The present research sheds light on the design of catalysts for future carbon dioxide conversion studies by highlighting an efficient and cost-effective synthesis technique for bimetallic catalysts.
For more information on this issue, visit http://chemeng.uwaterloo.ca/zchen/.