ROLE: Physical Chemist
Goal: to create a low-pressure catalyst to convert carbon dioxide into more useful compounds such as methanol and other hydrocarbons
Overall, a new catalyst in this industry would decrease greenhouse effects produced by the standard high-pressure copper-based catalysts currently in used. We wanted to first understand the differences between cobalt, manganese and hybrid catalysts on CO2 hydrogenation product selectivity. Past Somorjai research shows that a hybrid catalyst has unique rates and that methanol selectivity spikes, therefore the majority of my effort was attributed to optimizing MnOx + m-Co3O4 catalyst ratio.
There was multiple syntheses involved including MnO nanoparticles made from Mn-oleate, a precursor from a bi-phase liquid extraction of mixing MnCl2·4H2O and Na-oleate.
To synthesize m-Co3O4 we used KIT-6 (shown as blue silica compound on the left) was made from P-123, HCl, water, and n-butanol. Toluene was added with cobalt (II) nitrate hexahydrate to fill pores with cobalt.
I used a BET to calculate the surface area of each catalyst then analyzed products with a Gas Chromatography-TCD for CO, CO2, and methane detection as well as a GC-FID for the hydrocarbons.