A touch of sugar could help upcycle carbon dioxide into fuels

Monday, 06 May, 2024

A touch of sugar could help upcycle carbon dioxide into fuels

In a Northwestern University study, a catalyst made from table sugar converted CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), an important building block that could be used to produce a variety of useful chemicals. When the reaction occurs in the presence of hydrogen, for example, CO2 and hydrogen transform into synthesis gas (or syngas), a highly valuable precursor to producing fuels that can potentially replace petrol.

With recent advances in carbon capture technologies, post-combustion carbon capture is becoming a plausible option to help tackle the global climate change crisis. But how to handle the captured carbon remains an open-ended question. The new catalyst potentially could provide one solution for disposing the potent greenhouse gas by converting it into a more valuable product.

The study was published in the 3 May issue of the journal Science.

“Even if we stopped emitting CO2 now, our atmosphere would still have a surplus of CO2 as a result of industrial activities from the past centuries,” said Northwestern’s Milad Khoshooei, who co-led the study. “There is no single solution to this problem. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and find new ways to decrease the CO2 concentration that is already in the atmosphere. We should take advantage of all possible solutions.”

“We’re not the first research group to convert CO2 into another product,” said Northwestern’s Omar K Farha, the study’s senior author. “However, for the process to be truly practical, it necessitates a catalyst that fulfils several crucial criteria: affordability, stability, ease of production and scalability. Balancing these four elements is key. Fortunately, our material excels in meeting these requirements.”

Image credit: iStock.com/LoveTheWind

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