Copper, the bright future of the vehicle catalyst?

Date: 19 December 2017

Venue: Campus Groenenborger, V0.08 - Groenenborgerlaan 171 - 2020 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Campus Groenenborger)

Time: 4:30 PM

Organization / co-organization: Department of Chemistry

PhD candidate: Qi XIN

Principal investigator: Pegie Cool & Vera Meynen

Short description: PhD defence Qi XIN - Faculty of Science, Department of Chemistry


Automotive is playing a crucial role in our modern society for the fast and efficient transport of people and goods. Until now, the majority of vehicular transportation is based on the combustion of fossil fuels. Despites its high efficiency and low cost, the emission of  harmful carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particular matters (PM) is inevitable.

Because of their devastating effects, scientists and engineers have been developing an efficient tail-gas purification system since the early 1970s. Currently, the three-way catalyst is the most common system for the gasoline vehicle emission control. Because of the presence of precious metal platinum (Pt), palladium (Pd) and rhodium (Rh) inside the catalyst as active elements, the removal of the pollutants can reach up to 98 %. However, because of the scarcity of these three precious metals, the urge to look for another material to replace these active elements rises. In this context, copper can act as a sustainable and low price alternative due to its decent catalytic activity and abundancy. Nevertheless, there are two big obstacles that we are facing. Firstly there is its lower catalytic activity of copper in comparison to the precious metals and secondly there is its low thermal stability, which is a necessity for the automotive application. 

The aim of this PhD work is to develop a preparation method for copper oxide based catalyst which guarantees a high catalytic activity and stability towards the gasoline vehicle emission control. This method should also be simple, efficient and scalable for its production on an industrial scale.