SwissCat+ advances catalyst research for non-fossil fuels

Zurich/Lausanne – The robotics laboratory at the SwissCat+ hub of the two Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne is finding catalysts for the production of the energy source methanol from CO2. This experiment took just six weeks instead of many years.

Researchers at the SwissCat+ technology platform at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich(ETH) have developed an fully digitized and automated method that enables them to find new and better metal catalysts for the production of methanol from CO2 "much faster than before". According to a press release from ETH, they combined artificial intelligence (AI) to calculate promising catalyst compositions with the automated synthesis and testing laboratory at the SwissCat+ hub.

With this infrastructure, the team succeeded in developing around 150 catalysts for the production of methanol from CO2 within six weeks. "The time saved by the new method is enormous," says Paco Laveille, head of the hub at ETH. "With a traditional approach, our experiments would have taken many years."

Methanol is considered one of the key elements for a sustainable hydrocarbon economy. It can be used both as a sustainable fuel and as a raw material for the production of organic compounds such as medicines, plastics or paints.

This research will enrich our knowledge of catalysts for the production of sustainable fuels, explains the co-founder of SwissCat+, ETH Professor Christophe Copéret. Until now, knowledge of catalysts for the production of fuels has been "largely based on know-how from the oil industry". Reliable data on the reactions of the sustainable energy industry "is now provided by our AI-supported robot laboratory", says Laveille. "They will take catalyst research as a whole a long way forward." ce/mm

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