In a breakthrough, a team of researchers from the University of Southern California has not only found a way to lower CO2 emissions in the atmosphere but also to recycle it into something useful.
Researchers have provided evidence that CO2 from the air can be captured and directly converted into methanol, using a homogenous catalyst. Methanol can be used as an alternative to gasoline, for hydrogen storage in fuel cells, or as a building block for plastic.
Surya Prakash, a co-author of the study, said in a press release, “Direct CO2 capture and conversion to methanol using molecular hydrogen in the same pot was never achieved before. We have now done it!”
Although there is nothing new about creating methane (CH3OH) from CO2 and hydrogen, the problem with these reactions is that they require high temperatures (around 150 °C to 165° C or 257° to 359° F) and unfortunately, the heat often causes the catalysts to decompose.
But in this new study, the researchers have identified a catalyst that speeds up the reaction and makes it a whole lot easier. They have developed a stable catalyst based on the metal ruthenium that does not decompose at high temperatures. Moreover, this catalyst can be used over and over again for the continuous production of methanol.
The researchers commit that this new catalyst, along with a few additional compounds, can convert about 79% of the CO2 into methanol, and they are now researching a way to minimize the operating temperature of the catalyst to improve its efficiency.