What is it about?

Huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO₂) released from the burning of fossil fuels is harming our planet. We need to develop ways to capture and convert this CO₂ into useful products. Electricity is often used to convert CO₂ into less harmful products like carbon monoxide (CO), methane, and formic acid. This ‘electrochemical’ conversion requires the use of a 'catalyst.' Scientists have been trying to find ways to make electrocatalysis more efficient. To this end, a research team developed novel catalysts based on an element called rhenium from an existing catalyst complex. They found that the distance and position of chemical groups that are attached to the metal rhenium determine the catalyst’s performance. They altered the chemistry of the original catalyst and obtained a series of new catalysts. The new catalysts were highly efficient and extremely sensitive to CO₂ reduction. They produced CO at a much higher rate than with the original catalyst.

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Why is it important?

Scientists around the world are trying to lower CO₂ levels to prevent global warming. Converting CO₂ to useful products is one possible solution. But, this process requires the use of effective catalysts. By adding chemical groups that readily provide hydrogen for CO₂ reduction, like amine, modified rhenium catalysts can do a better job than their conventional counterparts. Before metal complexes may be used as electrocatalysts, their arrangement and structure must be carefully considered. Complexes with good molecular arrangement can improve CO₂ reduction greatly, while the congested ones may have lower catalytic activity. Increasing catalytic efficiency will reduce the cost of renewable electricity. This will ultimately help us achieve a greener and sustainable energy future. KEY TAKEAWAY: Using clean energy to transform CO₂ into useful products is becoming popular. New, improved catalysts could help improve efficiency of this process. This, in turn, could help us solve the problem of global warming.

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This page is a summary of: Enhanced Electrochemical CO2 Reduction by a Series of Molecular Rhenium Catalysts Decorated with Second-Sphere Hydrogen-Bond Donors, Inorganic Chemistry, April 2020, American Chemical Society (ACS), DOI: 10.1021/acs.inorgchem.0c00154.
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