Converting CO2 into Raw Materials Using Nanoparticles

As in Nature

Converting CO2 into Raw Materials Using Nanoparticles


Enzymes use cascade reactions to produce complex molecules from comparatively simple raw materials. Materials Chain researchers have copied this principle.

An international research team has used nanoparticles to convert carbon dioxide into raw materials. Scientists at Ruhr-University Bochum and the University of New South Wales in Australia have copied the principle from enzymes that produce complex molecules in multi-step reactions. The team transferred this mechanism to metallic nanoparticles, also known as nanozymes. The chemists used carbon dioxide to produce ethanol and propanol, which are common raw materials for the chemical industry.

The team led by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann from the Bochum Center for Electrochemistry and Prof. Dr. Corina Andronescu from the University of Duisburg-Essen, together with the Australian team led by Prof. Dr. Justin Gooding and Prof. Dr. Richard Tilley, reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society on August 25, 2019.

"Transferring the cascade reactions of the enzymes to catalytically active nanoparticles could be a decisive step in the design of catalysts," Wolfgang Schuhmann sums up.

Particles with two active centers

Enzymes have different active centres for cascade reactions, which are specialised in certain reaction steps. For example, a single enzyme can produce a complex product from a relatively simple starting material. In order to imitate this concept, the researchers synthesised a particle with a silver core surrounded by a porous layer of copper. The silver core serves as the first active centre, the copper layer as the second. Intermediate products formed in the silver core then react in the copper layer to form more complex molecules that ultimately leave the particle.

In the present work, the German-Australian team showed that the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide can take place in the nanozymes. Several reaction steps on the silver core and copper sheath transform the starting material into ethanol or propanol.

"There are also other nanoparticles that can produce these products from CO2 without the cascade principle," says Wolfgang Schuhmann. "However, they require considerably more energy."

The researchers now want to further develop the concept of the cascade reaction in nanoparticles in order to be able to selectively produce even more valuable products such as ethylene or butanol.


Original publication:
Peter B. O'Mara, Patrick Wilde, Tania M. Benedetti, Corina Andronescu, Soshan Cheong, J. Justin Gooding, Richard D. Tilley, Wolfgang Schuhmann: Cascade reactions in nanozymes: spatially separated active sites inside Ag-core-porous-Cu-shell nanoparticles for multistep carbon dioxide reduction to higher organic molecules, in: Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019
DOI: 10.1021/jacs.9b07310


Further information:
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schuhmann, Faculty of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ruhr University Bochum, Tel. 0234 32 26200, wolfgang.schuhmann@rub.de

Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler, RUB