Photo: DTU Physics

New type of catalysts can pave the way for greater sustainability

Saturday 07 Sep 19

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Jakob Kibsgaard
Associate Professor
DTU Physics
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Catalysts of one or two atoms may become essential to the green transition in future. It is hoped that they can be used for environmentally friendly purification of water or conversion of CO2 into fuel.

There is no doubt that catalysts will play a major role in our transition to fossil-free production of chemicals and synthetic fuels. So far, the development has focused on the use of nanoparticles for catalysts, but now a new project will look at a new type of catalysts that are based on just one or two atoms.

“We know very little about these catalysts. So over the next few years, we hope to gain a better basic understanding of them, and to find catalysts that can produce reactions that aren’t possible today,” says Associate Professor Jakob Kibsgaard of DTU Physics, who is leading the project.

The effect can be increased
Catalysts of one or two atoms are particularly interesting because they can make it possible to isolate the effect of the catalyst so that it only forms a single product.

“This could for example be in an electrochemical reaction, which would make it possible to create hydrogen peroxide for use in purifying water. This would be an eco-friendly purification method that wouldn’t leave any chemical residues and could lead to developing small purification plants that could be used anywhere in the world, including very remote places,” says Professor Kibsgaard.

Jakob Kibsgaard’s larger vision is to be able to use the new catalysts to reduce CO2 by transforming it into, for example, the fuel methanol.

“It would be fantastic if we get to that point – or at least take the first steps in that direction,” says Jakob Kibsgaard.

The project is supported by the Carlsberg Foundation Distinguished Fellowships. It started on 1 September and will run for three years.

The following researchers are employed on the project

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