Low-cost Catalysts Help Convert Seawater into Fuel On A Large Scale

Research Findings on Molybdenum Carbide Catalysts

Chemical engineers at the University of Rochester, in collaboration with researchers from the Naval Research Laboratory, the University of Pittsburgh, and OxEon Energy, demonstrated that a potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide catalyst can efficiently and reliably convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.
"This is the first time that this type of molybdenum carbide catalyst can be used on an industrial scale," said Mark Porosov, an assistant professor of chemical engineering in Rochester. In a paper, energy and environmental science researchers described a series of detailed experiments they conducted on molecular, laboratory, and pilot scales with the purpose of documenting the suitability of the catalyst for amplification.

Advantages of Using Molybdenum Carbide Catalyst

If naval ships can use the seawater they pass through to make their own fuel, they can continue to operate. Except for a few nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines, most naval vessels must regularly line up with tankers to replenish fuel, which can be difficult in inclement weather. In 2014, the Naval Research Laboratory team led by Heather Willauer announced the use of catalytic converters to extract carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater, and then convert these gases into liquid hydrocarbons with an efficiency of 92%.
Carbon dioxide extracted from seawater is difficult to convert directly into liquid hydrocarbons by existing methods. Therefore, the first step is to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide through a reversed-phase water gas shift (RWGS) reaction, and then convert it to liquid hydrocarbons through Fisher-Tawley synthesis (FTS). Generally, RWGS catalysts contain expensive noble metals and are rapidly deactivated under reaction conditions. However, the potassium-modified molybdenum carbide catalyst is synthesized from low-cost components and did not show any signs of deactivation in the 10-day pilot study of continuous operation. This is why the demonstration of molybdenum carbide catalyst is important.



Future Development of Molybdenum Carbide Catalysts

Porosoff first started working on this project when he was a postdoctoral researcher in the Willauer team. He discovered that adding potassium to the molybdenum carbide catalyst supported on the gamma alumina surface can be used as a low-cost, stable and highly selective catalyst for During rwg the carbon dioxide is converted to carbon monoxide.
Porosoff said potassium lowers the barriers associated with the RWGS reaction, and gamma alumina - which has grooves and pores, much like a sponge - helps ensure that the molybdenum carbide catalyst particles remain dispersed and maximize the surface area of the reaction. To determine whether potassium-promoted molybdenum carbide can also help capture and convert carbon dioxide from power plants, the laboratory will conduct further experiments to test the catalyst's performance when exposed to common pollutants in flue gas such as mercury, sulfur, cadmium, and chlorine. stability.

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