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Chemical Sciences and Engineering Division

Catalysis and Energy Conversion

In this area, we are exploring new catalytic materials and methods to different ends. One is the efficient use of U.S. natural resources, such as methane and ethane, as precursors of fuels for transportation and commodity chemicals. Another is to help alleviate the global problem of the vast accumulation of plastic waste by its upcycling to value-added products such as lubricant oils, detergents or cosmetics. 

We are also developing catalytic materials for polymer electrolyte fuel cell technology fueled by hydrogen. This technology is a high efficiency and clean alternative to conventional power systems for transportation, portable power and stationary applications. 

Key recent patented technologies from CSE include:

  • Method for catalytic upcycling of polymers to useful hydrocarbon materials. This method could help combat the 300 million tons of plastic that are created and discarded annually. Patent WO 2021/041323 and 2020/0238269.
  • Multimetallic catalysts for purification of olefin feedstocks by selective hydrogenation of dienes and acetylenes. Selective removal of these contaminants is a critical processing/purification step in the industrial refining of olefin feedstocks (ethylene, propylene and butenes). US patent 2018/0290948.
  • Lubricant compositions useful for providing improved anti-friction and anti-wear properties. These compositions are applicable to engine components such as pistons/cylinders of internal combustion engines, transmission gears, tie-rod assemblies and more. US patent 2018/0282656.
  • Platinum group catalyst with a high-surface-area substrate and promoter. This material maintains its high catalytic activity, selectivity and stability even when combined with a substrate support and would thereby improve petrochemical processing and organics production. US patent 10,391,477.
  • Nanofibrous electrocatalyst including a continuous network of graphitic nanofibers having embedded catalytically active metal. Such nanofiber catalysts have application in both polymer electrolyte fuel cells and lithium-air batteries. U.S. patent 10,700,361
  • Low platinum catalyst and method of preparation for use in polymer electrolyte fuel cells. The lower platinum content would reduce fuel cell cost. US patent 9,825,308.
  • Electrocatalysts composed of single copper atoms dispersed over a carbon support. This technology could be used to address carbon dioxide emission to the environment, particularly when low-cost renewable sources (such as wind and solar) are available. US patent 10,844,501.
  • Bi-metallic nanoparticles as cathode electrocatalysts for lithium-air batteries. The exceptionally high theoretical energy of these next-generation batteries has spurred worldwide interest. US patent 9,929,453.
  • Non-platinum bimetallic catalysts for polymer electrolyte fuel cells. One of the major barriers to commercialization of these fuel cells, especially for the automobile application, is cost. Removal of the platinum from the catalyst should greatly assist in overcoming that barrier. US patent 8,129,306.

For further information on these and other Argonne technologies with worldwide impact, go to Science and Technology Partnerships and Outreach.