A team of researchers at the University of Delaware has developed a highly selective catalyst capable of electrochemically converting carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas — to carbon monoxide with 92 percent efficiency. The carbon monoxide then can be used to develop useful chemicals. The researchers recently reported their findings in Nature Communications.
The renewable production of chemicals and fuels from biomass is inherently difficult due to competing side reactions. Eyas Mahmoud and Raul Lobo at the CCST have recently demonstrated the selective production of phthalic anhydride, a chemical used for the manufacture of plasticizers, unsaturated polyesters, and resins in the millions of tonnes per year, from biomass by using mixed sulfonic-carboxylic anhydrides as reaction intermediates. The reaction starts by the Diels-Arder reaction of maleic anhydride and furan, and the product is effectively dehydrated by the mixed anhydrides. This result opens the door to the possibility of production of ‘green’ phthalic anhydride from renewable sources.
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Professor Joel Rosenthal, in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has recently reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society that bismuth modified glassy-carbon electrodes are excellent electrocatalysts for the electroreduction of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. Bismuth is a widely available metal the byproduct of the production of lead, copper and tin. In the JACS report, Rosenthal shows that Bi-modified carbon electrodes (see figure on left) are effective and selective devices for the conversion of CO2 to CO on a variety of solvents, but are especially effective in imidazonium-based ionic liquids. Low over-potentials and Faradaic efficiencies of nearly 95% yield excellent energy efficiency for CO production, comparable to what has been observed using expensive catalysts like silver or gold.
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CCST is happy to announce that Nima Nikbin is the recipient of the 2013 Eastman Chemical Student Award. Nima’s work deals with the applications of quantum chemical calculations and theoretical chemistry to the analysis of catalysis problems of biomass derived molecules. He has investigated the difficult problem of understanding the molecular basis for catalytic activity and selectivity in the liquid phase for molecules as complex as fructose. This award recognizes his research accomplishments and the breath of his research activities. As a result of this award, Nima will give a summary of recent research results at the next CCST Annual Research Review and will receive a plaque and a gift at the Annual Review.
Donald Watson, an assistant professor and organic chemist in UD’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has received the NSF Career and Cottrell Scholar Awards. His research focuses on the development of new reactions that enable the synthesis of complex organic molecules. Part of the Watson Research Group’s effort has been dedicated to creating new methods to prepare organosilanes. His interest in developing new routes to such compounds stems from their extreme utility and widespread applications in drug synthesis, agrochemical synthesis and material science. The NSF Career Award funds Watson to examine new ways to construct vinyl and allyl silanes using simple alkene starting materials. This Silyl-Heck Reaction, as he has termed it, is a very simple method to prepare these two types of important organosilanes. In the new method, his group adds silicon to unfunctionalized, alkenes, which are cheap and widely available. The research builds off the Nobel Prize-winning work of UD’s Richard Heck, Willis F. Harrington Professor Emeritus of Chemistry and Biochemistry, whose pioneering developments of reactions to form carbon-carbon bonds through palladium catalysis enabled chemists to make molecules as complex as those created by nature itself.
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