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At the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa), a reactor has been developed that can use infrared (IR) thermography to visualize dynamic surface reactions and correlate them with other rapid gas analysis methods. The method can be used for the Sabatier reaction, for example, which can be used to produce synthetic methane from renewable energy by combining CO2 from the atmosphere and H2 from water splitting. A catalyst is required in the chemical process for these renewable synthetic fuels or e-fuels to activate the CO2 as a reactant.

The researchers have now shown how the catalyst works and responds to changes in feed gas composition. The understanding of the processes gained here can be leveraged to improve the performance of reactor systems working in dynamic conditions. This is crucial, since renewable energy, as well as the feed gases typically provide energy and reactants in varying quantities, and therefore the reactors converting renewable energy to synthetic fuels have to be adapted to work in dynamic conditions.