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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Rational Design and Synthesis of Inorganic Nanostructures for Tandem Catalysis and CO2 Conversion

  • Author(s): Xie, Chenlu
  • Advisor(s): Yang, Peidong
  • et al.

The subject of this dissertation focuses on the design and synthesis of new catalysts with well-defined structures and superior performance to meet the new challenges in heterogenous catalysis. The past decade has witness the development of nanoscience as well as the inorganic catalysts for industrial applications, however there are still fundamental challenges and practical need for catalysis. Specifically, it is desirable to have the ability to selectivity produce complex molecules from simple components. Another great challenge faced by the modern industry is being environmentally friendly, and going for a carbon neutral economy would require using CO2 as feedstock to produce valuable products. The work herein focuses on the design and synthesis of inorganic nanocrystal catalysts that address these challenges by achieving selective and sequential chemical reactions and conversion of CO2 to valuable products.

Chapter 1 introduces the development of heterogenous catalysis and the colloidal synthesis of metal nanoparticles catalysts with well-controlled structure. Tremendous efforts have been devoted to understanding the nucleation and growth process in the colloidal synthesis and developing new methods to produce metal nanoparticles with controlled sizes, shapes, composition. These well-defined catalytic system shows promising catalytic performance, which can be modulated by their structure (size, shape, compositions and the metal-oxide interfaces). The chapters hereafter explore the synthesis of new catalysts with controlled structures for catalysis.

Chapter 2 presents the design and synthesis of a three dimensional (3D) nanostructured catalysts CeO2-Pt@mSiO2 with dual metal-oxide interfaces to study the tandem hydroformylation reaction in gas phase, where CO and H2 produced by methanol decomposition (catalyzed by CeO2-Pt interface) were reacted with ethylene to selectively yield propyl aldehyde (catalyzed by Pt-SiO2 interface). With the stable core-shell architecture and well-defined metal-oxide interfaces, the origin of the high propyl aldehyde selectivity over ethane, the dominant byproduct in conventional hydroformylation, was revealed by in-depth mechanism study and attributed to the synergybetween the two sequential reactions and the altered elementary reaction steps of the tandem reaction compared to the single-step reaction. The effective production of aldehyde through the tandem hydroformylation was also observed on other light olefin system, such as propylene and 1-butene.

Chapter 3 expands the strategy of tandem catalysis into conversion of CO2 with hydrogen to value-added C2-C4 hydrocarbons, which is a major pursuit in clean energy research. Another well-defined 3D catalyst CeO2–Pt@mSiO2–Co was designed and synthesized, and CO2 was converted to C2-C4 hydrocarbons with 60% selectivity on this catalyst via reverse water gas shift reaction and subsequent Fischer–Tropsch process. In addition, the catalysts is stable and shows no obvious deactivation over 40 h. The successful production of C2−C4 hydrocarbons via a tandem process on a rationally designed, structurally well-defined catalyst demonstrates the power of sophisticated structure control in designing nanostructured catalysts for multiple-step chemical conversions.

Chapter 4 turns to electrochemistry and apply the precision in catalyst structural design to the development of electrocatalysts for CO2 reduction. Herein, atomic ordering of bimetallic nanoparticles were synthetically tuned, from disordered alloy to ordered intermetallic, and it showed that this atomic level control over nanocrystal catalysts could give significant performance benefits in electrochemical CO2 reduction to CO. Atomic-level structural investigations revealed the atomic gold layers over the intermetallic core to be sufficient for enhanced catalytic behavior, which is further supported by DFT analysis.

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