28 April 2020

New study shows improved carbon dioxide reduction through molecular design

The work could play a role in supporting global carbon capture and utilisation efforts.

A laser shining in the Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy Laboratory

A new study that could help improve carbon capture and utilisation technologies has been featured on the front cover of the journal Dalton Transactions.

The article describes how tuning the structures of rhenium and manganese-based carbon dioxide reduction catalysts can have remarkable affects on their rates and yields of carbon monoxide production.

The reduction of carbon dioxide is the process of converting CO2 into more reduced chemical species, such as carbon monoxide or ethanol. This process plays a key part in global carbon capture and utilisation attempts, so designing new and improved catalysts is a crucial element of chemical research.

Carbon dioxide reduction catalysts typically use photo- or electrochemistry to turn the greenhouse gas CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), which can then be used as a feedstock for chemical synthesis.

Researchers in Professor Julia Weinstein’s group synthesised two such catalysts based on rhenium and manganese, designed to absorb visible light. They also incorporated organic 'ligands”'which could protect the sites vital to catalysis, preventing unwanted side reactions.

Using photochemical and electrochemical studies, our researchers were able to demonstrate one of the first examples of a manganese-based reduction catalyst when photosensitised by a zinc porphyrin. Computational calculations performed by researchers in Professor Anthony Meijer's group helped to reinforce these experimental observations.

The work performed in this study adds to the growing body of research on the wide utility of sterically protected rhenium and manganese-diimine carbonyl catalysts, where the rate and yield of CO-production can be tuned based on the metal centre and catalytic conditions, with the advantage of suppressing unwanted side-reactions.

Read the paper

A world top-100 university

We're a world top-100 university renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of our research-led learning and teaching.