Chemical reactions for the energy transition
New insights reveal pathways to improvement
One of the things that we’re excited about in this study is that the result is not final in and of itself. It has really seeded a brand-new thrust area in our research program, including new ways to design catalysts for the production and transformation of renewable fuels and chemicals.
Chemists worldwide are working to design catalysts that will speed up critical chemical reactions needed to convert renewable resources such as biomass into useful fuels and chemicals. Now, chemists at MIT have demonstrated that such reactions can actually take place as two separate but coordinated “half-reactions,” activated by the transfer of charged particles. As a result, researchers can design separate catalysts for each half-reaction—a far easier task than finding a single catalyst effective for the overall reaction. The approach increases the likelihood of finding low-cost materials that can do the job, and—because the transfer of charged particles is involved—the MIT team can now use its expertise in electrochemistry to design catalysts for this type of reaction, thereby aiding in the production of renewable fuels for a clean energy system.