Working in his lab in UD's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Rosenthal and doctoral student John DiMeglio have developed an inexpensive catalyst that uses the electricity generated from solar energy to convert carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into synthetic fuels for powering cars, homes and businesses.The research is published in the June 19 issue of theJournal of the American Chemical Society.
Gold and silver represent the "gold standard" in the world of electrocatalysts for conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. But Rosenthal and his research team have pioneered the development of a much cheaper alternative to these pricey, precious metals. It's bismuth, a silvery metal with a pink hue that's a key ingredient in Pepto-Bismol, the famous pink elixir for settling an upset stomach.
An ounce of bismuth is 50 to 100 times cheaper than an ounce of silver, and 2,000 times cheaper than an ounce of gold, Rosenthal says. Bismuth is more plentiful than gold and silver, it is well distributed globally and is a byproduct in the refining of lead, tin and copper.
Moreover, Rosenthal says his UD-patented catalyst offers other important advantages: selectivity and efficiency in converting carbon dioxide to fuel.
"Most catalysts do not selectively make one compound when combined with carbon dioxide -- they make a whole slew," Rosenthal explains. "Our goal was to develop a catalyst that was extremely selective in producing carbon monoxide and to power the reaction using solar energy."
Many of us hear '"carbon monoxide" and think "poison.""It's true that you do not want to be in a closed room with carbon monoxide," Rosenthal says. "But carbon monoxide is very valuable as a commodity chemical because it's extremely energy rich and has many uses."
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