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Researchers have discovered a process that takes Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the air and converts it into methanol (CH3OH) with the help of a homogeneous catalyst. By the way, the idea of converting CO2 into methane is not particularly new. What these scientists did was that they found a catalyst - metal ruthenium - that makes the reaction much faster and this is something that has never been done before.
Many might wonder how beneficial this discovery is. For starters, Carbon Dioxide, although a useful gas, can be harmful in large quantities in the atmosphere. As such, this process can be seen as a way to remove CO2 from the air and subsequently ensure that its levels are acceptable. The other advantage that this discovery brings to the table is that methanol can be used as a replacement for gasoline, a source of energy.
[Image Source: The Green Age]
The work was performed by two professors; G. K. Surya Prakash, a professor in chemistry from the University of Southern California and George A. Olah, a distinguished professor from the University of Southern California as well as a Nobel laureate. These two professors shared their work as a journal published on the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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When speaking to phys.org, Prakash said, "Direct CO2 capture and conversion to methanol using molecular hydrogen in the same pot was never achieved before. We have now done it!"
The excitement behind his statement is quite understandable. Scientists have been trying to figure out a way to convert Carbon Dioxide into other products in an attempt to control its quantity in the atmosphere without significant success, until now.
Proposed reaction sequence
After a few preliminary tests, it was found out that the reaction was able to convert 79% of atmospheric CO2 into methanol. Although it looks like the whole process is straightforward, it is actually challenging to find a good catalyst that will facilitate the reaction. The current catalyst works at 150 degrees Celsius but the scientists are confident that with time, they will be able to find one that will work in the 100-120 degree Celsius range.
"We will continue the studies to develop more robust catalysts that work around 100 to 120 °C," Prakash said. "We would like to perform the chemistry in a preparatively useful way, wherein there are no solvent or reagent losses."