Addressing atmospheric pollution, chemists develop new catalyst for converting carbon dioxide into fuel

New results from Washington University in St. Louis demonstrate a record-breaking single catalyst for converting carbon dioxide pollution into fuel.

Researchers in the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences; the Department of Energy, Environment & Chemical Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering; and the Institute of Materials Science & Engineering (IMSE) at WashU have developed a new single catalyst for the photoreduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbon monoxide (CO). Their work aims to meet demand for solar-driven photocatalytic technologies to address atmospheric pollution by converting CO2 into fuel. The results were published September 28 in the journal ACS Central Science.

Julio D’Arcy (Photo: Sean Garcia/Washington University)

The researchers, led by Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry and corresponding author on the new study, showed that the nanofibrillar conducting polymer PEDOT could achieve record-breaking CO2 conversion efficiencies as a single catalyst. PEDOT’s effectiveness stems from its highly conductive nanofiber structure, which significantly enhances its surface area, CO2 adsorption, and light absorption, allowing the PEDOT catalyst to achieve 100% CO yield in certain conditions. These results exceed all other single catalysts currently available – besting the top performing single catalyst by two orders of magnitude – and are only surpassed by three other co-catalyst systems, which require multiple agents to achieve similar conversion efficiencies and suffer from costly fabrication techniques with low yields.

“We’ve shown for the first time that CO2 can be reduced to CO using a single conducting polymer (PEDOT) that we made in our lab. This is also the first demonstration of an organic catalyst performing at high catalytic efficiencies,” said D’Arcy. “The reduction of CO2 holds various chemical mechanisms that are paramount for developing technologies that can clean our atmosphere. Our work does not use any inorganic materials and, we believe, opens the door for the next generation of highly efficient organic-inorganic catalysts for this important application.”

D’Arcy has previously published studies showing applications of PEDOT ranging from wearable electronics to portable energy storage. This new work marks a significant advance in bringing his research on polymer chemistry into the market for green technologies aimed at addressing climate change, air quality, human health, and energy security.

Read the full paper, “Single PEDOT Catalyst Boosts CO2 Photoreduction Efficiency.”