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Develops catalysts for clean energy production

Dr. Ariel Friedman, develops solutions in the field of electrochemistry that will lead to green and cheap energy

Meet Dr. Ariel Friedman, a graduate of theDepartment of Chemistry at Bar-Ilan University, who is currently working as a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Northeastern University in Boston. His research deals with the development of catalysts for a variety of energy conversion technologies, and focuses on the development of catalysts for the electrochemical synthesis of urea from carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

Urea is a compound that is massively used in agriculture as a fertilizer and is used in the chemical industry as a starting molecule for the production of a variety of chemical compounds and plastic polymers. Urea production is responsible for approximately 1.4% of global energy consumption and is considered a very polluting and inefficient process. Using electricity from renewable energy sources will allow the production of green urea without any pollutant emissions, while saving energy. On top of that, the process uses as starting materials carbon dioxide and nitrogen compounds, which are polluting by-products of many industrial processes, thus enabling the reduction of the emission of these pollutants into the environment.

During his doctoral thesis, under the guidance of Prof. Lior Elbaz from the Department of Chemistry, Dr. Friedman researched fuel cells as part of a broader program called the hydrogen economy, in which the future energy currency will be based on hydrogen and not mineral fuels. In this program, energy from green sources such as solar cells, wind turbines, etc. will be used to electrolyze water to produce hydrogen. Fuel cells can directly convert the chemical energy stored in hydrogen into electricity while emitting water as the only byproduct. Since today's fuel cells use expensive metals such as platinum as a catalyst in fuel cells, it is necessary to find a cheaper substitute to lower the costs of wide deployment of this technology. The research focused on the development of catalysts based on inexpensive metals for the oxygen reduction process in a fuel cell inspired by enzymes that perform a similar action in nature.

"For me, electrochemistry is a fascinating and elegant subfield in chemistry," Dr. Friedman says. "Using electricity as a driving force for chemical reactions allows efficient and precise control of the reaction and the products. Electrochemistry is at the forefront of research, from the efficient and selective production of drugs to the conversion and storage of energy in batteries, solar cells, and fuel cells."

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