Wolfgang Schuhmann heads the Chair of Analytical Chemistry and is a member of the Excellence Cluster Ruhr Explores Solvation.
New catalysts will help to convert carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxides into useful or harmless substances.
The electrochemical conversion of CO2 or nitrogen oxides into useful or harmless subsequent products is based on a complex series of reactions. Some of them require more energy, some less. Chemistry always chooses the energetically most favourable path. The reaction chain thus does not run as desired, and a wide range of products are created, not just the one that you want.
It is hoped that special electrodes modified with catalysts, which Wolfgang Schuhmann wants to design with his ERC grant, will provide a solution. They are based on a conductive fleece with a Teflon coating on one side, making it gas-permeable but not water-permeable. Various catalyst particles are embedded in the fleece. While the gas enters the fleece from the waterproof side, the fleece is moistened from the other side. A place in which all three components – gas, liquid phase and catalyst – come into contact with each other is thus created inside the fleece.
The various different catalyst particles in the gas diffusion electrodes, have to be placed at defined relative locations, that only the desired reaction pathway should take place, ultimately causing the desired product to be created, such as harmless nitrogen from nitrogen oxides. This should prevent possible side paths for unwanted reactions to a large extent.
The aim of the ERC project is to understand the design of cooperating catalysts for selective cascade reactions and demonstrate their function. The research focuses on producing basic platform chemicals through the reduction of CO2 and air purification to remove nitrogen oxides.