In the context of the search for processes that are less polluting and more energy-efficient than current processes, it is interesting to produce high-stake molecules such as C2H4 by developing alternative synthesis routes to steam cracking, which is used in the majority of cases, but is energy-intensive and based on fossil resources. Processes such as photocatalysis, which relies on the use of light energy, seem an attractive way of generating these molecules of interest. In this context, we have already shown that the use of TiO2-based photocatalysts decorated with copper particles enables the production of ethylene from an aqueous solution of propionic acid, with a selectivity (C2H4/other carbonaceous products) of up to 85%.
However, photocatalysis kinetics can be slow, and it can take a long time to identify the best catalysts or catalyst/reagent pairs for a given reaction. So, in order to determine whether radiolysis, which relies on the use of radiation to ionize matter, can be an effective method of screening catalysts, initial experiments have already been carried out on catalyst (TiO2 or Cu TiO2)/reagent (propionic acid more or less concentrated) pairs, previously studied in photocatalysis. Initial results obtained by radiolysis are encouraging. In these experiments, only dihydrogen production was measured. A significant difference was observed in this production depending on the system: it was high during radiolysis of propionic acid with TiO2 nanoparticles, and significantly lower in the presence of Cu TiO2 nanoparticles, suggesting a different reaction path in the latter case, in line with observations made during photocatalysis experiments.
The aim of this thesis work will be to extend these initial results by synthesizing nanoparticles (catalysts), preparing reagent/catalyst mixtures, then irradiating them and measuring the various gases produced by gas-phase micro-chromatography, with special attention on ethylene. Particular attention will be paid to determining the species formed, especially transient ones, in order to ultimately propose reaction mechanisms accounting for the differences observed for the different reagent/catalyst pairs. Comparisons will also be made with results obtained by photocatalysis.