The big brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a staple of the modern medicine cabinet, always on hand for first aid needs. Lesser known uses of hydrogen peroxide include disinfecting hospital equipment and fueling spacecraft. Yet as common and beneficial of a substance as it is, hydrogen peroxide is surprisingly hard to produce and transport. Currently, hydrogen peroxide is made through what’s known as the “anthraquinone process.” This method is energy-intense, requires large-scale production, and produces large quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct. While directly reacting hydrogen and oxygen to make hydrogen peroxide would be ideal, thermodynamics prefers to form the more stable water (H2O) over hydrogen peroxide.
So the challenge becomes: does a material exist that can be used to selectively, reliably, and efficiently form hydrogen peroxide whenever and wherever it’s needed, so that transporting it isn’t necessary? A team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University has set out to meet that difficult challenge. Associate Professors Venkat Viswanathan (mechanical engineering) and Tzahi Cohen-Karni (biomedical engineering/materials science and engineering) are leading an effort to develop a cheap, renewable, and sustainable method of creating hydrogen peroxide. The team has published a paper in ACS Catalysis on the work.