From Facets to Flow: The Electrooxidation of Glycerol on Pd-based catalysts
Abstract: Glycerol, a by-product of biodiesel refineries, has uses in industries such as cosmetics, food, and pharmaceuticals. However, its usage is small compared to the amount of glycerol produced from biodiesel production. Therefore, there is an opportunity to use glycerol, an important platform chemical, as a cheap feedstock for the synthesis of valuable chemicals. These chemicals can be formed in aqueous media through the glycerol electrooxidation reaction (GEOR) on the anode with hydrogen gas concurrently generated on the cathode. This thesis focuses on the GEOR in alkaline media on Pd and PdNi catalysts. The works compiled here evaluate the GEOR using electrochemical methods such as cyclic voltammetry, galvanostatic polarisation curves, chronoamperometry and chronopotentiometry. Pd and PdNi catalysts were fabricated through chemical synthesis, and electrodeposition onto Ni substrates. Singularly oriented Pd crystal facets were studied, showing those approximating Pd (111) as the most active. Similarly faceted bimetallic PdNi nanoparticles proved significantly more active than pure Pd. Effects of mass transport, studied for Pd/NiRDE and PdNi/NiRDE, indicated performance effects linked to diffusion and underutilisation of thicker catalyst layers. In aerated solutions, industrially relevant current densities were achieved on PdNi/Nifoam in concentrated electrolytes at elevated temperatures for extended periods. The analysis of glycerol oxidation products, formed during steady state measurements, was done using high performance liquid chromatography. The two major products were consistently shown to be glycerate and lactate. This work, covering many aspects of the GEOR, shows that Pd-based catalysts have potential for future industrial application.
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