The biogas produced from the anaerobic decomposition of organic material has almost equal concentrations of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The dry methane reforming (DRM) combines these gases generating carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2).

That is why DRM has received greater interest because it is an attractive and promising for conversion of greenhouse gases into synthesis gas (syngas) or prior to the manufacture of many chemical products.

Currently there are two key issues to be addressed to optimize the process of DRM for industrial applications: 1. Improve the activation of CH4 and CO2 and 2. Mitigate deactivation by carbon deposition that is increased due to high temperatures (greater than 800 K) necessary to activate the reaction.

A theoretical and experimental work carried out by Drs. Lustemberg and Busnengo in colaboration withs groups of the United States and Spain, reports the behavior of a Ni-CeO2 catalyst which is highly efficient, stable and inexpensive for the DRM at relatively low temperature (700 K).

The active phase of the catalyst consists of small nickel nanoparticles dispersed on the partially reduced surface of ceria. Experiments of photoelectron spectroscopy X-ray (XPS) at ambient pressure, indicates that methane dissociates on Ni/CeO2 at low temperatures (300 K), generating CHx and COx species on the catalyst surface. The key to this lies in the strong metal-support interactions that activate the Ni for dissociation of methane. The theoretical results obtained through first-principles calculations confirm the experimental results predicting a noticeable decrease in the effective activation barrier of methane, from 0.9 eV in Ni (111) at only 0.15 eV in Ni/CeO2-x (111).

This paper not only showed that this catalyst improves methane activation, but also no residual signals of carbonaceous species under the experimental conditions are detected. This indicates that the catalyst Ni/CeO2 proposed optimizes the dry reforming of methane in a clean and efficient manner.

Liu, Z., Grinter, D. C., Lustemberg, P. G., Nguyen-Phan, T.-D., Zhou, Y., Luo, S., Waluyo, I., Crumlin, E. J., Stacchiola, D. J., Zhou, J., Carrasco, J., Busnengo, H. F., Ganduglia-Pirovano, M. V., Senanayake, S. D. and Rodriguez, J. A. (2016), Dry Reforming of Methane on a Highly-Active Ni-CeO2 Catalyst: Effects of Metal-Support Interactions on C−H Bond Breaking. Angew. Chem. Int. Ed.. doi:10.1002/anie.201602489