12/11/2013, by

Scientists at ICIQ design the most efficient one-pass CO2 to methanol conversion process

  • Researchers in Tarragona achieve for the first time in only one step the 95% conversion of CO2 into methanol, an excellent fuel and a key starting material for important industrial reactions.
  • The process consists of the catalytic hydrogenation of carbon dioxide at high pressure.
  • The chemical conversion of CO2 into methanol could be the basis of a new economy and a solution to balance the carbon cycle.
  • The flexibility and versatility of this method allows the synthesis of other valuable products for the chemical industry.

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities and responsible for the climate change. CO2 emissions have increased drastically since the Industrial Revolution in 1750 and this trend has not change. Therefore, devising a strategy to mitigate CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has become one of the most important challenges of this century.

Scientists bet for the CO2 capture, fixation and conversion into less polluting and valuable products for the chemical industry as the most promising solution to mitigate climate change.

For the first time, a research team led by Atsushi Urakawa at the Institute of Chemical Research of Catalonia, Tarragona, has optimised the conversion process of CO2 into methanol achieving close-to-full one-pass conversion.

The method, published as Priority Communication in Journal of Catalysis consists of a stream of CO2 and hydrogen that flows through a reactor filled with a catalyst of copper, aluminium and zinc at high pressure.

“Conversion of the very stable molecule CO2 becomes extremely efficient under specific high pressure conditions and within the reach of practical implementation, benefiting from the thermodynamic advantages and highly active catalysts. We anticipate stimulating discussions on our approach both in industry and academia towards efficient CO2 conversion and methanol as the future chemical currency.”

The process designed by Urakawa is very versatile and allows the conversion of the methanol generated in the reactor into other fundamental chemical products such as dimethyl ether, olefins and other hydrocarbons via simple modifications of the catalyst and/or the reactor pressure.

This CO2 transformation approach is highly productive and is convenient for the sites where CO2 is captured and stored and small-scale plants are required. The technology is available for out-licensing and/or joint development.

Reference:

Towards full one-pass conversion of carbon dioxide to methanol and methanol-derived products
Atul Bansode, Atsushi Urakawa
Journal of Catalysis Volume 309, January 2014, Pages 66–70

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