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CO2 valorization: optimization of a bio-inspired catalyst

Researchers at CEA-Joliot (I2BC) have optimized a bio-inspired CO2 reduction catalyst by modifying its 3D topology.

Published on 24 November 2020

​Recycling carbon dioxide would reduce its atmospheric accumulation, one of the main causes of global warming. To turn CO2 into fuel or building blocks for organic compounds of interest, we must first break the O=C=O bonds, a very energy-consuming process. For this, researchers can draw inspiration from nature, which posess particularly effective metalloenzymes, such as carbon monoxide dehydrogenase, which reversibly reduces CO2 to CO.

In 2019, the I2BC team developed a new iron porphyrin* type catalyst, directly inspired by the active site of carbon monoxide dehydrogenase and particularly promising for reduction of carbon dioxide. More precisely, the researchers had modified the iron porphyrin by introducing, on its second coordination sphere, urea functions, acting as molecular pillars providing hydrogen bonds to immobilize the CO2 on the metal center, as in the natural enzyme.

In this new study, scientists show that the 3D topology (isomerism) of the urea groups impacts the functional properties of the catalyst. They have thus detected which topology has a better catalytic activity with the highest velocity constant reported in the literature for the electro-catalytic reduction of CO2 to CO.

​Institute for Integrative Biology of the Cell (I2BC)
Frédéric Joliot Institute for Life Sciences - CEA Paris-Saclay
​Université Paris-Saclay, CNRS, Institut de chimie moléculaire et des matériaux d'Orsay

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