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Optimization of Water-Gas-Shift catalysts: a fundamental and mechanistic approach

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Making your electric car more efficient

Hydrogen and fuel cells (combining hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity) are excellent candidates for clean energy production. However, hydrogen is primarily produced by reforming crude oil, coal, natural gas and organic waste, a process that results in high carbon monoxide (CO) content that degrades fuel cell performance.

Industrial Technologies

The water-gas-shift (WGS) reaction is critical to the production of purified or clean hydrogen yet conventional WGS catalysts, or substances that speed the reaction without being changed by it, are not suitable for mobile fuel cell applications. Cerium (Ce) is a metallic chemical element that shows promise as a component of a new generation of WGS nanocatalysts. However, although it has been studied extensively, characterising its role in the intricate WGS reaction mechanism has been a challenge. Thus, the ‘Optimization of water-gas-shift catalysts: a fundamental and mechanistic approach’ (Nanowgs) project was designed to identify the active phase of the WGS reaction and characterise active species and reaction intermediates to develop an improved generation of WGS catalysts. To date, the researchers have determined the role of specific ceria-based compounds in the reaction mechanism. In particular, the correlation between the reducibility of the cerium oxide (CeOx) species and catalyst performance pointed to the importance of both metal phase and metal oxide support in the reaction mechanism. As such, the final phase of the Nanowgs project aimed at optimising the interaction between metal and support to prepare, characterise and test an improved generation of WGS catalysts. The results may bring us one step closer to producing purified hydrogen – and the technology may just be what makes your next electric car run.

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25 July 2019