CO2 and sustainably produced hydrogen have the potential to serve as an ingredient for converting electrical power generated by windmills or solar panels into a gas fuel. This 'power-to-gas' concept can solve two problems at once: it reduces CO2 emissions while creating more flexible applications of sustainable energy. However, profitable conversion of CO2 would require an extremely effective catalyst. Researchers from Utrecht University have found a way to study the conversion process in detail and to determine the perfect size for the catalytic nickel nanoparticles. The researchers will publish their results in Nature Catalysis on Monday, 29 January.
Lead author Charlotte Vogt explains: “When we make metal nanoparticles smaller and smaller, they start to show very different properties to what we expect and understand from classical physics and chemistry”. Together with colleagues Florian Meirer and Bert Weckhuysen from Utrecht University and researchers from chemical company BASF, Vogt found that nickel particles exhibit optimal catalytic activity at a size of 2.5 nanometres, about 40,000 times smaller than a human hair. The researchers also found that a specific architecture of these tiny nickel particles facilitates the activation of CO2 .