Novel method to split hydrogen with copper-titanium catalysts

A novel method to split hydrogen in nanoporous copper-titanium catalysts may improve the production of scents and flavorings as well as the conversion of compounds obtained from biomass.

An elementary stage in catalytic hydrogenation, which is a chemical reaction between molecular hydrogen [H2] and another substance or element, usually in the presence of a catalyst, that typically necessitates the employment of precious metals, is the dissociation (breaking apart) of hydrogen bonds.

By using copper alloys diluted with early transition metals as selective hydrogenation catalysts, researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) are reducing the use of precious metals. Their approach is based on the idea that a more reactive metal can start the catalytic cycle. The study is published in the American Chemical Society Journal.

The researchers discovered that compared to nanoporous copper (Cu) catalysts that were not doped, the rate of hydrogen dissociation exchange was increased by around one order of magnitude (5-7 times greater).

The research shows that the rate of exchange above that of pure Cu is predominantly driven by entropic factors that result from a shift in the rate-limiting step, and that isolated, metallic Ti atoms on the surface of the Cu host operate as the active surface sites for hydrogen recombination.