Plasma-catalysis: Is it just a question of scale?


The issues of describing and understanding the changes in performance that result when a catalyst is placed into plasma are discussed. The different chemical and physical interactions that result and how their combination might produce beneficial results for the plasma-catalytic processing of different gas streams are outlined with particular emphasis being placed on the different range of spatial and temporal scales that must be considered both in experiment and modelling. The focus is on non-thermal plasma where the lack of thermal equilibrium creates a range of temperature scales that must be considered. This contributes in part to a wide range of inhomogeneity in different properties such as species concentrations and electric fields that must be determined experimentally by in situ methods and be incorporated into modelling. It is concluded that plasma-catalysis is best regarded as conventional catalysis perturbed by the presence of a discharge, which modifies its operating conditions, properties and outcomes often in a very localised way. The sometimes used description “plasma-activated catalysis” is an apt one.


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Correspondence to J. Christopher Whitehead.

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Whitehead, J.C. Plasma-catalysis: Is it just a question of scale?. Front. Chem. Sci. Eng. 13, 264–273 (2019).

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  • plasma catalysis
  • plasma-activated catalysis
  • non-thermal plasma
  • CO2 conversion