Room temperature stable COx-free H2 production from methanol with magnesium oxide nanophotocatalysts

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Science Advances  02 Sep 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 9, e1501425
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501425

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Methanol, which contains 12.6 weight percent hydrogen, is a good hydrogen storage medium because it is a liquid at room temperature. However, by releasing the hydrogen, undesirable CO and/or CO2 byproducts are formed during catalytic fuel reforming. We show that alkaline earth metal oxides, in our case MgO nanocrystals, exhibit stable photocatalytic activity for CO/CO2-free H2 production from liquid methanol at room temperature. The performance of MgO nanocrystals toward methanol dehydrogenation increases with time and approaches ~320 μmol g−1 hour−1 after a 2-day photocatalytic reaction. The COx-free H2 production is attributed to methanol photodecomposition to formaldehyde, photocatalyzed by surface electronic states of unique monodispersed, porous MgO nanocrystals, which were synthesized with a novel facile colloidal chemical strategy. An oxygen plasma treatment allows for the removal of organic surfactants, producing MgO nanocrystals that are well dispersible in methanol.

  • Magnesium oxide
  • nanophotocatalysts
  • COx-free H2 production
  • methanol photodecomposition

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