Nano-engineering Ni-Ga interfaces for low pressure methanol production

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Royce’s Materials Challenge Accelerator Programme (MCAP)  awarded £53,925.60 of a total of £67,407.00 towards this project in collaboration with academics at the University of Surrey. The project explored the use of hydrogen, coupled with the conversion of CO2, for the sustainable synthesis of chemical feedstocks, including methanol and higher hydrocarbons. This could result in 90% drop in CO2 emissions. The project demonstrates the stable and highly active Ni/Ga-based materials using the exsolution method for the production of methanol from CO2.

Methanol is a clean energy resource fuelling cars, trucks, ships and the use of renewable Hydrogen and CO2 as a feedstocks for its thermochemical synthesis is possible using existing technology. However, material challenges, such as kinetic limitations and poor stability of active catalysts, currently hinder commercialisation.

Exsolution, a novel nanoengineering disassembly method, was used for the first time to prepare distinct Ni-Ga interfaces on perovskites. Effect of the A-site chemistry was studied, with Ca, as compared to Sr, promoting formation of porous structures and exsolution. The substitution level of Ni and Ga as well as the effect of exsolution temperatures and PO2 was studied. Results showed that in terms of particle characteristics, lower temperatures and higher substitution levels are more beneficial. Exsolution of the active Ni5Ga3 was successful in most samples but the presence of Ga2O3 in the some, depending on the PO2, resulted in additional increase in their catalytic activity. The materials were selective and showed almost no signs of deactivation after 20h on stream.

This work addresses the need for low pressure methanol synthesis catalysts with higher stability in CO2 rich conditions and/or CO2 reduction to acetate and CO, priority areas identified in the Royce Materials Challenge roadmap – Materials for the Energy transition.  It has been showcased in multiple academic, industrial and public settings and has already received positive feedback and interest. It has enabled acquisition of preliminary data for the EPSRC NIA and planning of a follow up project proposal submission with Universities of Cambridge, Newcastle and Ceres Power. This project strongly aligns with the UK vision towards net-zero, its ambition to become a global leader in hydrogen end use technologies and contributes majorly to its economy, as currently methanol imports amount to ~£145M/year while 56% of the UK natural gas (methanol’s production feedstock) is imported (~£20B).

This project responds to the ‘desired future’ advances as identified in the ‘materials for low-carbon production of hydrogen and related energy carriers and feedstocks’ roadmap, in particular on replacing fossil fuels via production of sustainable fuels and chemicals from captured CO2 and renewable hydrogen. It serves the short term need for lower-pressure and higher stability catalysts for CO2 conversion, but also sets the foundations for the medium and long term needs of designing tandem catalysts for CO2 to liquid fuels and chemical feedstocks, such as petroleum-derived products and aviation fuels.

Dr Kalliopi Kousi,  Lecturer of Chemical Engineering, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, University of Surrey 


Dr Melis S. Duyar,  Senior Lecturer of Chemical Engineering, School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, University of Surrey.

Areas of expertise include CO2 capture and catalytic utilisation, and plastics upcycling. Currently PI on 2 projects focusing on catalytic conversion of CO2, funded by the EPSRC and industry and has contributed to the Royce Roadmap on “Materials for the Energy Transition”. 

Further information

Total funding requested £67,407.00 split between the University of Surrey and Royce, who awarded £53,925.06 of the total cost