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Unlocking the potential of metal nanoparticles

July 13, 2018

Credit: Utrecht University / Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis

Researchers from Utrecht University, Netherlands in collaboration with R&D colleagues Peter Berben, Esther Groeneveld and Gerda Kamsma from BASF in De Meern, Netherlands, have found a way to study the conversion process in detail and determine the perfect size for the catalytic nickel nanoparticles. The researchers published their results in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Catalysis.

Peter Berben, Senior Research Manager, says: “We are proud that we have made this research possible by supplying the best suitable nickel catalysts. These new insights can contribute to solutions to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide.” The team found that nickel particles exhibit optimal catalytic activity at a size of 2.5 nanometers, 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. Lead author Charlotte Vogt from Utrecht University says: “When we make metal nanoparticles smaller and smaller, they start to show very different properties than what we expect and understand from classical physics and chemistry”.

In order to understand how these nickel nanoparticles behave during the conversion of CO2, the researchers studied the catalysts in action. In cooperation with scientists at the Swiss Light Source in Switzerland, they developed an ultra-fast measuring tool to study their catalysts at work. This allowed the researchers to unlock the mechanism behind the CO2 conversion process in great detail. 

The project involved a close collaboration between researchers at BASF, Utrecht University, Lehigh University in the United States, and the synchrotron facilities at the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland. “This collaboration has brought us a better understanding of how these solid catalysts work, putting us in the position to unlock the true potential of small metal nanoparticles for CO2 catalysis,” says Bert Weckhuysen, Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and Catalysis at Utrecht University.

Birgit Hellmann
Global Sustainability Communications