Fundamental discovery slashes energy cost of chemical reactions

Fundamental discovery slashes energy cost of chemical reactions

David Tenenbaum
June 27, 2016

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(Left) The apparatus used to demonstrate new catalysts for alcohol oxidation that reduce the amount of energy needed in the process. PHOTO: DAVID TENENBAUM (Middle) Artavazd Badalyan. (Right) Shannon Stahl.

CONTACT: Shannon Stahl, stahl@chem.wisc.edu, (608) 265-6288 (requests email for first contact)

DOWNLOAD PHOTOS: https://uwmadison.box.com/v/stahl-catalyst

In research that could one day allow fuel cells to be fueled by biomass rather than hydrogen gas, a University of Wisconsin—Madison lab has found a pair of catalysts that oxidize alcohols with significantly better energy efficiency.

Alcohols are a broad group of organic chemicals abundant in biomass, ranging from cellulose and sugars to lignin, the woody portion of plant stalks and trees. The study, published today (June 27, 2016) in the journal Nature, examined the “electrochemical” oxidation of alcohols. This process converts the chemical energy present in these organic molecules into electricity.