Saving precious metals for a sustainable future
Several elements on the periodic table are now considered to be “endangered” due to the current state of global resources. This is concerning since several of these elements, specifically precious metals, are routinely used as catalysts in industrial processes.
But, with scarcity comes opportunity: the worldwide demand for catalytic materials is projected to grow to nearly $35 billion by 2024. Accessing even a small portion of this market with a sustainable alternative would be economically and environmentally beneficial.
Dr. Christopher Caputo, Canada Research Chair in Metal-Free Materials for Catalysis, aims to address these challenges by developing sustainable materials that completely remove the metal components, but elicit the same reactivity. He intends to use readily available main-group elements to generate new materials that will be applied in applications such as energy production, catalysis and organic electronics.
These materials have the potential to substantially lower manufacturing costs. For example, over 50 percent of the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell is attributed to the platinum catalyst. Caputo will investigate the application of these materials in order to reduce the cost of fuel cells, which in turn may lead to wider use by industry, and benefit the environment.
Metal-free materials can suffer from stability issues. Despite this, Caputo and his team are working to improve the reactivity and stability of metal-free materials to make them competitive with precious metal systems. This work may lead to the development of more sustainable materials that can be used industrially for a greener future for Canada, and the world.