Monash chemists discover catalysts that could convert carbon dioxide into a useful chemical

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major greenhouse gas, which contributes to global warming and sea level rising.

Dr Jie Zhang, an electrochemist and Senior Lecturer at the School of Chemistry, and a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials  says it is vital to develop cost-effectivetechnologies to capture and utilize CO2 thus reduce its level in the atmosphere. But this remains an ongoing challenge. Dr Zhang’s research is helping to beat that challenge with a recent study published in Angewandte Chemie as a Very Important Paper. “Our research focuses on the synthesis of catalysts that can convert CO2 into useful chemicals with high efficiency using the electricity from renewable sources,” said Dr Zhang, the lead author of the study. “In this work, we developed a new bismuth based catalyst which efficiently converts CO2 to formate,” he said.

Dr Zhang believes the ideal solution to the energy and environmental crisis is to use solar energy to generate useful chemical from CO2 and water that mimics the photosynthesis in Nature.

The role of bismuth subcarbonate is revealed through a systematic Fourier transformed ac voltammetric study.Credit: Ms Ying Zhang

“Our research is important because it contributes to the development of advanced electrocatalysts that are needed to realize this ideal solution,” Dr Zhang said.

The research team developed an efficient electrochemical method to synthesise few-layer bismuth subcarbonate nanosheets for electrocatalytic conversion of CO2 to formate with high selectivity and energy efficiency. Importantly, according to Dr Zhang, an advanced characterisation method was used to reveal the identity of the catalyst, which has been a highly challenging task in this field.

“Designing advanced electrocatalysts to convert CO2 to value added chemicals is a topic of global significance,” Dr Zhang said.

“However, the development of the field has been hindered by the poor understanding of the operational mechanism of the electrocatalysts,” he said.

The research was significant because the detailed mechanistic study led to the discovery of an excellent bismuth-based catalyst which could efficiently convert carbon dioxide into a useful chemical at a very low overpotential.

For further information, or to arrange an interview with Dr Zhang, please contact:

Silvia Dropulich Marketing, Media and Communications Manager, Science

T: +61 3 9902 4513 M: +61 (0) 0435138743 E: silvia.dropulich@monash.edu