Trends in Photocatalysts using Advanced & Nano-sized Materials

February 2019 | Vol 2, No. 1


The need for clean and sustainable energy technologies, and reductions in CO2 and chemical emissions, has become a high priority in modern society. The industrial revolution sparked a continual increase in emissions, and there are increasing concerns over global warming, fossil fuel shortages, and the destabilizing effects these issues could cause worldwide. This has resulted in industries turning to advanced catalysts to address these concerns. Advanced catalysts are sought after to meet consumer and regulatory needs, particularly for emissions control, energy efficiency, and improved production of chemicals and fuels.1 In the development of these advanced catalysts, nanomaterials are increasingly being looked to for improving catalytic activity and selectivity. For example, nano-based catalysts have the potential to enable 100% selective automobile combustion and produce no toxic byproducts.1 Nano-sized materials have performance benefits over bulk materials due to their increased specific catalytic activity, stemming from their small size and increased surface-to-volume ratio. Nanocatalysts have shown improved performance in a wide range of applications, including chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing, fuel cells, conversion of coal or biomass to liquid fuels, clean energy, hydrogen and liquid fuel production, oil and gas refining, and automotive.1

A great deal of work is also focused on the use of nanomaterials in photocatalysis as a promising approach to the applications described above. Photocatalysis involves the use of a catalyst to promote faster rates of reaction in processes that take place via the absorption of light. The criteria for an efficient photocatalyst includes the ability to absorb light across the ultraviolet-visible (UV-Vis) region to produce electrons and holes, prevent the early recombination of these electrons and holes, and have acceptable redox potentials to promote photo-oxidative reactions.2 Nanostructured materials are highly promising photocatalytic materials, due to the desirable properties that arise from their small size and morphology. These include improved light absorption and reactant adsorption on their surface, and suppressed electron-hole recombination.3
Photocatalysts utilizing this technology are actively being researched and developed, and there is increased activity in inventing novel solutions. Patent applications for photocatalysts incorporating nanomaterials have nearly tripled over the past decade. This non-confidential report details some of the nanomaterials that are showing significant potential in the photocatalyst market based on our extensive market research and voice-of-customer interviews with industry professionals.
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[1] The Global Market For Nanotechnology And Nanomaterials, 2010-2027. 3 ed., Future Markets, 2017, pp. 734–744.
[2] Chen, X. et al. Photocatalytic Oxidation of Methane over Silver Decorated Zinc Oxide Nanocatalysts. Nature Communications. 7, 1-8 (2016).
[3] Kumar, D. et al. Stable and Active CuxO/TiO2 Nanostructured Catalyst for Proficient Hydrogen Production under Solar Light Irradiation. Solar Energy Materials & Solar Cells. 146, 63–71 (2016).