Scientists show catalyst can perform first step of turning CO2 into fuel in 2 different ways

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In California, Scientists at Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory made a new catalyst, based on nickel atoms, that works with either heat or electricity and accelerates a reaction for turning carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide – the first step in making fuels and useful chemicals from CO2.

Their work aims to bridge two approaches to driving the reaction – one powered by heat, the other by electricity – with the goal of discovering more efficient and sustainable ways to convert carbon dioxide into useful products.

The results represent an important step toward unifying the understanding of catalytic reactions in these two very different conditions with distinct driving forces at play, said Thomas Jaramillo, professor at SLAC and Stanford and director of the SUNCAT Institute for Interface Science and Catalysis, where the research took place.

The results also explain how the new catalyst drives this key reaction faster when used in an electrochemical reactor, the research team said.

Going forward, the research team wrote, studies like this one will be essential for unifying the study of catalytic phenomena across reaction environments, which will ultimately bolster efforts to discover new catalysts for transforming the fuel and chemical industries.