A Novel Way to Construct Graphene-porous Organic Polymer Composite for Electrocatalytic Conversion of CO2

The functional materials research group led by Dr. Mohamed Alkordi, co-director of Center for Materials Science (CMS) at Zewail City, has published their recent novel pathway to construct a composite material that combines the desirable characteristics of graphene and a porous organic polymer (POP) for application in the electrocatalytic conversion of CO2. The study was published in the Chemical Communications, from the Royal Society of Chemistry, in September 12, 2016.

 “Targeting efficient heterogeneous catalysts to mitigate pressing environmental challenges, especially increased levels of CO2 emissions, is at the focal point of our research interests at Zewail City,” said Alkordi. In this study, the researchers directed their efforts to outline a novel straightforward synthesis of a catalytic composite material that combined several desirable properties of its components.

The graphene utilized in this study served as the electron conductor, as it is one of the known excellent electrical conductors, still, it does not adsorb CO2. The POP that was built from its molecular precursors atop the graphene layers in one-pot synthesis served as the active catalytic site to adsorb and further help the electrocatalytic reduction of CO2. It showed appreciable affinity to CO2, however, it was found to be an insulator for electrical current, hindering its utilization in electrochemical processes known to affect CO2 conversion.

Therefore, the team outlined a strategy to combine both materials into a composite that can merge their mutual properties. As the POP and graphene are virtually insoluble in many known solvents, the team utilized a bottom-up approach to constructing the polymer from its molecular, soluble, components atop the graphene.