IIT Mandi researchers develop cost-effective, environment friendly catalyst

9 months ago 24
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Researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Mandi have developed a carbon-based nanosheet that can be used as a catalyst for industrial hydrogenation reactions, instead of the precious heavy metals currently in use. This could reduce the cost of the processes as well as make them environment friendly.

Hydrogenation—a process of adding hydrogen to a compound—is commonly used in industries to produce aromatic alcohols for perfumes, pharmaceutical products, agrochemicals and other chemical substances. Instead of using hydrogen gas, which can be inconvenient and expensive, industries use hydrogen donor chemicals that release hydrogen for the reaction.

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However, a catalyst is needed for the completion of the reaction. A catalyst is a compound that increases the rate of a reaction without getting consumed in the process. For hydrogenation, industries currently use precious metals such as rhodium, iridium, platinum and ruthenium that are expensive and lead to environmental pollution. The recovery of these metal catalysts is also difficult.

The team from the School of Basic Sciences at IIT Mandi, in collaboration with researchers from IIT Ropar, have developed a carbon-based graphitic carbon nitride (GCN) nanosheet that can be used instead of a metal catalyst.

“We synthesised a catalyst by the chemical oxidation of graphitic carbon nitride (GCN) nanosheets, which results in the generation of water-loving (hydrophilic) carboxyl, hydroxyl and ketonic groups over the GCN surface,” said Dr Venkata Krishnan, associate professor at School of Basic Sciences, in a release. These hydrophilic groups are the active reaction sites for the hydrogenation process. Nanosheets are tiny sheets of the material, 100,000 times thinner than a single human hair, but present a large surface area for the reaction to occur.

The team tried various hydrogenation reactions using the carbon-based catalyst and found it produced high yields for these reactions, proving it to be versatile. In addition, these nanosheets can be recovered and reused for several runs without any loss in catalytic activity.

“We cannot overestimate the practical importance of catalysis. Almost all the synthetic products we use now relies on industrial preparations, which in turn make use of catalysts,” said Krishnan.

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