Plasma-enhanced heterogeneous catalysis offers a promising alternative to thermal catalysis due to the synergy between the plasma and the solid catalyst. However, there is only a limited mechanistic insight about the interactions of highly energetic electrons and excited molecules with heterogeneous catalysts in plasmas. Accurate performance comparison in a plasma-catalytic setting is complicated because of the intricate nature of the plasma-catalyst system: simultaneous reactions occurring in the gas-phase and at the catalytic surface; the dependence of the discharge on dielectric properties of the packed catalyst bed; and the dependence of permittivity and polarization of the catalyst on plasma parameters. Here, we present a method of temperature-programmed plasma surface reaction (TPPSR) that allows decoupling gas-phase processes from the surface plasma-induced reactions. Using this method we reveal the main reasons of apparent synergy between plasma and heterogeneous catalyst for the case of carbon dioxide hydrogenation. Experiments with isotopically labelled CO2 and temperature-programmed plasma reaction experiments in flow of CO2/H2 prove a substantial role of gas-phase dissociation/hydrogenation for the observed catalyst activity and selectivity. The product distribution and reaction pathways do not significantly depend on the discharge parameters. Taking into account overheating of the catalytic bed for comparison of catalytic activity with and without plasma, it was concluded that energy dissipation also plays an important role. The observed plasma enhancement is in part due to the acceleration of electron-induced surface reactions.
- Heterogeneous catalysis
- Non-thermal plasma