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Synthesis

Bismuth Catalyzes CO2 Reduction

by Craig Bettenhausen
May 19, 2014 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 92, ISSUE 20

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Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
Electrodeposited bismuth is porous, as shown in this SEM image, providing high catalytic surface area.
09220-scicon-nanoscalecxd.jpg
Credit: J. Am. Chem. Soc.
Electrodeposited bismuth is porous, as shown in this SEM image, providing high catalytic surface area.

Inexpensive bismuth may soon give chemists a new option for dealing with carbon dioxide captured from industrial processes. Joel Rosenthal and coworkers at the University of Delaware have developed a non-precious-metal electrocatalyst that “efficiently and selectively reduces CO2 to CO, which is an important energy-rich commodity chemical that can be used to synthesize liquid fuels,” Rosenthal says. Using bismuth(III) triflate as a precursor, the researchers electrodeposited amorphous bismuth metal on a carbon electrode under mild conditions. The bismuth catalyst achieves current densities that are an order of magnitude greater than existing silver and gold CO2-reduction catalysts (J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/ja501923g). The high current density means that a device using the catalyst can churn out a large volume of CO per electrode area. Clifford P. Kubiak, an expert in catalytic CO2 fixation at the University of California, San Diego, says that although challenges remain with the system, such as the high operating potential and the coproduction of water with the CO, “this is a very important contribution to the field of electrochemical reduction of CO2.”

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