Carbon Dioxide – the main cause of Global Warming can now be converted into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products.

Carbon Dioxide – the main cause of Global Warming can now be converted into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products.

Researchers have developed catalysts that can convert carbon dioxide, which is the main cause of global warming, into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products with unprecedented efficiency.



How Carbon Dioxide (CO2) can be converted into Plastic and other products?

The electrocatalysts are the first materials, aside from enzymes, that can turn carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O) into carbon building blocks containing one, two, three, or four carbon atoms with more than 99 per cent efficiency.

Two of the products—methylglyoxal (C3) and 2,3-furandiol (C4)—can be used as precursors for plastics, adhesives, and pharmaceuticals. Toxic formaldehyde could be replaced by methylglyoxal, which is safer.

Carbon Dioxide - the main cause of Global Warming can now be converted into plastics, fabrics, resins, and other products.
Karin Calvinho/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

The discovery, based on the chemistry of artificial photosynthesis, is detailed in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

“Our breakthrough could lead to the conversion of carbon dioxide into valuable products and raw materials in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries,” says senior author Charles Dismukes, a professor in the chemistry and chemical biology department and the biochemistry and microbiology department at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. He is also a principal investigator at Rutgers’ Waksman Institute of Microbiology.

Previously, scientists showed that carbon dioxide can be electrochemically converted into methanol, ethanol, methane, and ethylene with relatively high yields.

But such production is inefficient and too costly to be commercially feasible, according to lead author Karin Calvinho, a chemistry doctoral student.

Using five catalysts made of nickel and phosphorus, which are cheap and abundant, however, researchers can electrochemically convert carbon dioxide and water into a wide array of carbon-based products, she says.

The choice of catalyst and other conditions determine how many carbon atoms can be stitched together to make molecules or even generate longer polymers. In general, the longer the carbon chain, the more valuable the product.



What is next into CO2 Conversion into valuable products?

The next step is to learn more about the underlying chemical reaction, so it can be used to produce other valuable products, that can be utilized in the polymer industry, or hydrocarbons that can be used as renewable fuels.

The researchers are designing, building, and testing electrolyzers for commercial use.

Based on their work, the researchers have earned patents for the electrocatalysts and formed RenewCO₂, a start-up company.

The research has been published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Source: Rutgers University



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