Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️
December 07, 2021
Quote of the week: “Experience paves the way to success. Failures and success are both experience that shape who we are today.” Hanan Farhat, Senior Research Director of the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute.
From The Editor's Corner
What to do with CO₂? From waste to useful chemicals
The increasing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a global concern due to its link to climate change. The rise in global temperatures, the shrinking of the arctic ice, the mass loss of ice sheets, and the increase in the global average sea level are related to the emissions of this greenhouse gas. We can also already see more frequent extreme weather events, such as record heat waves, deadly floods, and wildfires.
Only in 2019, 36 million tonnes of CO₂ were emitted into the atmosphere. The main sources of this gas are carbon-based power plants, transport, and heavy industry such as steel, cement, and hydrogen production.
The most direct way to reduce CO₂ emissions is to stop producing them, but finding cleaner and profitable alternatives to fossil fuels remains a big challenge. Considering the large volumes of fossil fuels that are consumed and available today, these could still use them for at least another 100 years. In addition, several economies are still strongly dependent on coal, such as Australia or Colombia.
Thus, it is very important to stop treating CO₂ as waste. Instead, we need to look at it as a building block of chemicals and fuels. While researchers work towards developing efficient and industrially competitive alternative technologies to fossil fuels, capture and conversion of CO₂ are essential to decrease emissions. Some industries already use CO₂ as raw material, for example, for the production of urea (for fertilizers) and plastics. Many more useful products could be made from CO₂, such as olefins, methanol, and fuels. However, as illustrated in this review article, there are still some limitations to the use of CO₂ in industry, mainly related to the capture and transport of CO₂.
But first, let’s have a look at the key steps to produce useful chemicals from CO₂. The first step is CO₂ capture, either directly from the atmosphere or from the flue gases of industrial processes. Capturing CO₂ from the air is mainly limited by the low concentration in the atmosphere (400 ppm). Thus, CO₂ capture from industrial flue gases becomes more attractive. In this case, it is necessary to separate the carbon dioxide from the rest of the flue gas components. This is mostly done by adsorption in liquid solvents (monoethanolamine, MEA), but solid adsorbents can be also used (activated carbons, molecular sieves, zeolites, and polymers). After capture, compression and transport of CO₂ are the bottlenecks for its commercialization. Trucks are commonly used to deliver CO₂ by road. Pipelines are also being implemented, but this is only cheaper if it is done on a large scale.
After CO₂ capture, separation, and transport, we need to convert this gas into valuable products in an efficient way. This is not easy, as carbon dioxide is a very stable molecule. It requires a lot of energy to break this molecule to make new chemicals, and this usually means high temperatures (> 1000 °C). To reduce the energy penalty of CO₂ conversion, this gas is usually mixed with other reactants, such as butane or H₂. In addition, catalysis becomes essential to accelerate the reaction. A catalyst is a substance that lowers the activation barrier of the reaction and speeds it up, while it is not itself consumed. The importance of catalysis and its impact on our society has been recognized throughout the years with several Nobel Prizes, including this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of asymmetric organocatalysis.
There are different types of catalysis for CO₂ conversion – electrocatalysis, photocatalysis, plasma-catalysis, and thermal catalysis are some examples. In my doctoral thesis - What to do with CO₂? Towards valuable chemicals using plasma and catalysis – we can find some examples where CO₂ is converted to useful chemicals using thermal heterogeneous catalysis. I performed this work at the University of Amsterdam (2016-2020), under the supervision of* Dr. N. Raveendran Shiju* and Prof. Gadi Rothenberg.
For the conversion of CO₂ using heterogeneous catalysis we place a solid catalyst in the gaseous reaction media. There are different requirements for a ‘good catalyst’, such as high conversion levels and high selectivity towards the desired product, thus avoiding additional separation steps. High long-term stability is also important, as in industry catalysts preferably run for a long time (days, months…) without decreasing its productivity or the need to be replaced.
Common catalysts are supported materials, where the active component is dispersed over a supporting matrix. The active component is a metal or metal oxide (for example, cobalt or cobalt oxide), while the support (commonly alumina, silica, and titania, among others) is typically stable and inert. Nevertheless, certain supports play a crucial role in catalysis as they are in close contact with the active site.
Through national and international collaborations, during my PhD I focused on exploring the performance of a family of novel materials called MAX phases as supports of metal oxides. MAX phases, such as Ti₃AlC₂ or Ti₂AlN, are a family of layered ternary carbides and nitrides that combine ceramic and metallic properties: they show high-temperature strength and stiffness, and at the same time they are tough, ductile, and conduct electricity and heat. Therefore, they have been typically used for mechanical and thermal applications, such as structural coatings in fission and fusion reactors. Nevertheless, the catalytic properties of MAX phases have attracted more attention in the last years.
We found that cobalt oxide supported on Ti₂AlC₂ MAX phase catalyst was active, selective, and stable during the butane dry reforming reaction. This reaction converts CO₂ and butane to synthesis gas. Synthesis gas (a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen) is used in industry as the precursor of valuable chemicals, such as fuels or alcohols through the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS). Another type of MAX phase, Ti₃AlC₂, also showed interesting results when used as a support for molybdenum oxide during the reverse water-gas shift reaction. In this study, the MAX phase catalyst increased the conversion of CO₂ and hydrogen compared to traditional materials at 550 °C. The main product of this reaction is carbon monoxide, a basic building block for a variety of important chemicals, such as paraffins and olefins.
It is interesting to mention that the chemical treatment of MAX phases results in the formation of MXenes, a new family of 2D layered materials. MXenes are interesting in catalysis as their interlayer space and surface area are enhanced compared to MAX phases. In addition, they are hydrophilic, chemically stable, and excellent electrical conductors. Due to the high electrical conductivity and the high ion diffusion rate between layers, MXenes have been mainly used for energy storage devices and electrocatalysis. They are also promising materials for heterogeneous catalysis, and they have already been used in the direct dehydrogenation of ethylbenzene and ammonia borane hydrolysis, among other reactions.
Another strategy to activate stable molecules like CO₂ is the use of plasma. Plasma is a partially ionized gas that contains electrons, excited molecules and atoms, radicals, ions, and neutral gas species. This ionized gas is usually created by applying an electric discharge between two electrodes, which are located inside a reactor filled with gas. The electrons in the plasma can activate inert molecules, while the bulk gas phase of the plasma remains near room temperature. For example, we studied how plasma-catalysis can be used to convert CO₂ to methanol at near-ambient temperature and pressure (30 °C and 1 bar).
More information on the workings of plasma-catalysis and details on our research can be found in my doctoral thesis, available here. There you will also find a summary in English, Spanish, Dutch, and German.
Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is a profitable business!
Dr. Maria Ronda-Lloret
Materials Biz News
Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang appeared in “Mad Money” two days after Nvidia reported higher-than-expected revenues and earnings for the third quarter. Also, Nvidia’s employment has skyrocketed in recent weeks, fueled by optimism among investors in the metaverse. Although this concept, called omniverse by Nvidia, is familiar for people involved with science-fiction, it is new for the rest. But now, with companies like Facebook betting for the subject like a business of the coming years, metaverse becomes a new emerging technology strengthening the impact of the Four Industrial Revolution. Expectations from Nvidia are associated with Huang’s vision about a virtual reality universe as a space for simulated economic operations, including factories, plants, processes, power grids, etc., cutting wastes and increasing efficiency. In the end, companies could obtain vast amounts of money in savings. Recent recognition by the Times magazine named Nvidia Omniverse as one of the best 100 innovations of 2021. Indeed, a new slot of opportunities for Corrosionists today and during the coming years.
Corrosion Communications is a new journal devoted to providing a fast medium to share recent results related to corrosion and protection. The journal is published by Elsevier, collaborating with the Institute of Metal Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences – IMR. Accepted topics include advanced corrosion monitoring and detection technology, corrosion mechanism and protection technology in an interactive environment, light-alloy protection, long-term anti-corrosion coatings, corrosion and protection in extreme environments, development of advanced anti-corrosion materials, and multi-scale corrosion simulation calculation.
The above is the title of a recently published book and edited by colleagues Torben Lund Skovhus, docent & project manager at VIA University College and CEO at Skovhus BioConsult in Horsens, Denmark, and Richard B. Eckert, Senior Principal Specialist in the Corrosion Management group at DNV in Dublin, Ohio, USA. This book examines state-of-art information on MIC and provides guidelines for corrosion failure analysis emphasizing the diagnosis of MIC. After the introductory part, the book presents issues related to MIC failure analysis case studies, MIC in other engineered systems, and MIC failure analysis processes and protocols. Further than the editors, some of the authors are Brenda J. Little, Laura Machuca, Christina S. Bottaro, Natalie M. Rachel, Márcia Lutterbach, Silvia Salgar-Chaparro, Erika Suarez, and Lisa M. Gieg.
Networking & Knowledge Exchange
The Real Cost of Corrosion. Virtual
NACE International Calgary Section is sharing a webinar about the 2020 IMPACT study about the real cost of the Canadian corrosion (about USD $52.000 million USD), a cost is in the range of the 3% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The IMPACT study provides some strong guidance on how to equate investing in corrosion prevention into long term rate of return. The speakers for this webinar will be Monica Hernandez, CEO of Infinity Growth Corporation, and Sandy Williamson, Managing Director of Williamson Integrity Services Ltd.
Date: Friday, December 10th of 2021.
Hours: 14:00 to 15:00 EST (GMT - 5)
A career in corrosion close to the coming energy. Virtual
The Institute of Corrosion (ICorr) is offering a one-hour event showing that a career in corrosion and its importance in the future energy including renewables, this will be focused for young members of the ICorr and will show about highlight new energy sectors and where corrosion will have a negative impact on such sectors.
Date: Thursday, December 16th of 2021.
Hours: From 16:00 to 17:00 (BST).
Master degree on corrosion control engineering
The University of Manchester offers a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in Corrosion Control for Engineers. This course will provide comprehensive training in corrosion and its control and cover fundamental chemistry, physics, electrochemistry, and metallurgy. The course's main objective is to produce competent and professionally qualified graduates who are appropriately trained and who obtain immediate, rewarding, and valuable employment as corrosion scientists or engineers in the industry anywhere in the world.
- Friday, January 7th of 2022.
- Friday, March 4th of 2022.
- Friday, May 6th of 2022.
December 10th The Real Cost of Corrosion. (Link)
December 16th A career in corrosion close to the coming energy. (Link)
May 29th The Electrochemical Society (ECS) 241st Meeting. (Link)
August 28th Digital innovations for improving safety in chemical plants. (Link)
2021 Corrosion science symposium and advances in corrosion protection by organic coatings (Link)