Inspenet, August 27, 2023.
Multiple efforts to reduce CO 2 and methane emissions have led to an innovative solution: a solar catalyst developed by the University of Central Florida (UCF).
Boron: the key to the success of the solar catalyst
The team of researchers from the UCF Center for Nanoscience Technology and the Space Institute of Florida have devised a boron-enriched catalyst that exhibits defects at the nano level. These structural features make it possible to break down hydrocarbon chains such as methane into harmless components.
The operating mechanism harnesses the energy of concentrated sunlight and the presence of hydrocarbons in the air. As a result of this process, pure hydrogen is obtained, which is a valuable energy resource, as well as pure carbon, which stands out for its thermal and electrical conductivity qualities, as well as its lubricating properties. Remarkably, unlike other industrial methods, this process does not generate carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide as by-products.
“Not only do you generate green hydrogen, but you also process methane. We convert a greenhouse gas into valuable products, taking methane out of the cycle,” says Richard Blair, a UCF catalysis expert.
The team believes that this achievement could result in a substantial decrease in costs associated with power-generating catalysts and could increase the efficiency of solar photocatalysis. In addition to enabling the industrial production of hydrogen without the need for water, this technique is presented as an effective approach to capture methane present in the atmosphere , which is frequently generated as a by-product in agricultural activities, landfills, wastewater treatment processes. and various industrial operations.
Climate change caused by human activity is accentuating the release of methane, both due to the expansion of tropical wetlands and the melting of polar permafrost. Therefore, a technology that enables large-scale capture of methane while generating multiple sources of revenue is certainly promising.
“Before our discovery, that type of boron nitride was considered inert. But, thanks to defect engineering, we discovered its enormous potential to produce carbon and green hydrogen.” Says Richard Blair.
The team is exploring possibilities to license this technology and to carry out research with external funding, with the aim of advancing this type of innovation.