Saving precious metals for a sustainable future
Several elements on the periodictable are now considered to be “endangered” due to the current state of globalresources. This is concerning since several of these elements, specificallyprecious metals, are routinely used as catalysts in industrial processes.
But, with scarcity comesopportunity: the worldwide demand for catalytic materials is projected to growto nearly $35 billion by 2024. Accessing even a small portion of this marketwith a sustainable alternative would be economically and environmentallybeneficial.
Dr. Christopher Caputo, CanadaResearch Chair in Metal-Free Materials for Catalysis, aims to address thesechallenges by developing sustainable materials that completely remove the metalcomponents, but elicit the same reactivity. He intends to use readily availablemain-group elements to generate new materials that will be applied in applicationssuch as energy production, catalysis and organic electronics.
These materials have thepotential to substantially lower manufacturing costs. For example, over 50% ofthe cost of a hydrogen fuel cell is attributed to the platinum catalyst. Caputowill investigate the application of these materials in order to reduce the costof fuel cells, which in turn may lead to wider use by industry, and benefit theenvironment.
Metal-free materials can sufferfrom stability issues. Despite this, Caputo and his team are working to improvethe reactivity and stability of metal-free materials to make them competitivewith precious metal systems. This work may lead to the development of moresustainable materials that can be used industrially for a greener future forCanada, and the world.