Chemistry

Compartmental Production

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Science  29 Aug 2003:
Vol. 301, Issue 5637, pp. 1159-1161
DOI: 10.1126/science.301.5637.1159e

Hydrogen peroxide is used as bleach, to treat waste, and in chemical synthesis. Hence, it would seem to be a prime candidate as a versatile, environmentally friendly oxidizing agent, but current production methods are energy-intensive and involve many steps. A catalytic method would be attractive, but mixtures of H2 and O2 are explosive, and the electrical efficiency on the basis of H2 input is less than 30%.

Yamanaka et al. have modified their earlier fuel cell reactor in which low oxygen concentrations limited the production of hydrogen peroxide (which was further reduced to water) in order to increase the oxygen concentration and avoid losses. They introduced a porous membrane cathode, which allows a high O2 concentration at the site where hydrogen peroxide is produced. Furthermore, they used a cation membrane to prevent diffusion of hydrogen peroxide to the anode, where it might be reduced. With these changes, they could achieve continuous hydrogen peroxide production at 6 weight % with an electrical efficiency of about 90%. —JFU

Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 42, 3653 (2003).

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