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Acc Chem Res. 2014 Mar 18;47(3):845-54. doi: 10.1021/ar400177c. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Strategies for designing supported gold-palladium bimetallic catalysts for the direct synthesis of hydrogen peroxide.

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  • 1Cardiff Catalysis Institute, School of Chemistry, Cardiff University , Main Building, Park Place, Cardiff CF10 3AT, U.K.


Hydrogen peroxide is a widely used chemical but is not very efficient to make in smaller than industrial scale. It is an important commodity chemical used for bleaching, disinfection, and chemical manufacture. At present, manufacturers use an indirect process in which anthraquinones are sequentially hydrogenated and oxidized in a manner that hydrogen and oxygen are never mixed. However, this process is only economic at a very large scale producing a concentrated product. For many years, the identification of a direct process has been a research goal because it could operate at the point of need, producing hydrogen peroxide at the required concentration for its applications. Research on this topic has been ongoing for about 100 years. Until the last 10 years, catalyst design was solely directed at using supported palladium nanoparticles. These catalysts require the use of bromide and acid to arrest peroxide decomposition, since palladium is a very active catalyst for hydrogen peroxide hydrogenation. Recently, chemists have shown that supported gold nanoparticles are active when gold is alloyed with palladium because this leads to a significant synergistic enhancement in activity and importantly selectivity. Crucially, bimetallic gold-based catalysts do not require the addition of bromide and acids, but with carbon dioxide as a diluent its solubility in the reaction media acts as an in situ acid promoter, which represents a greener approach for peroxide synthesis. The gold catalysts can operate under intrinsically safe conditions using dilute hydrogen and oxygen, yet these catalysts are so active that they can generate peroxide at commercially significant rates. The major problem associated with the direct synthesis of hydrogen peroxide concerns the selectivity of hydrogen usage, since in the indirect process this factor has been finely tuned over decades of operation. In this Account, we discuss how the gold-palladium bimetallic catalysts have active sites for the synthesis and hydrogenation of hydrogen peroxide that are different, in contrast to monometallic palladium in which synthesis and hydrogenation operate at the same sites. Through treatment of the support with acids prior to the deposition of the gold-palladium bimetallic particles, we can obtain a catalyst that can make hydrogen peroxide at a very high rate without decomposing or hydrogenating the product. This innovation opens up the way to design improved catalysts for the direct synthesis process, and these possibilities are described in this Account.

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