Researchers at the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have proposed a promising method that can efficiently convert carbon dioxide into ethylene.
This is an important chemical that is useful in the production of plastics, solvents, cosmetics and other important products worldwide. So far, it is obtained from hydrocarbons.
Scientists have advanced nano-scale copper wires with special shaped surfaces to catalyze chemical reactions, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and at the same time generating valuable chemical ethylene. reducing carbon dioxide
Studies of the reaction show that the shaped catalyst is more conducive to the production of ethylene than hydrogen or methane. A detailed study of the progress was published in “Nature Catalysis”.
“We are on the brink of fossil fuel depletion, along with the challenges of global climate change,” Yu Huang, a corresponding co-author of the study and a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA, said in a statement.
“Developing materials that can efficiently convert greenhouse gases into value-added fuels and chemical feedstocks is a critical step in mitigating global warming while avoiding the extraction of increasingly limited fossil fuels. . This integrated experiment and theoretical analysis presents a sustainable path towards carbon dioxide recycling and utilization,” he stated.
As a reminder, the current global annual production of Ethylene is to the tune of 158 million tons. A significant amount of that is turned into polyethylene, which is used in plastic packaging. Ethylene is processed from hydrocarbons, such as natural gas.
“The idea of using copper to catalyze this reaction has been around for a long time, but the key is to accelerate the rate so that it is fast enough for industrial production,” said William A. Goddard III, study co-author and professor of chemistry, Materials Science and Applied Physics from Caltech.
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“This study shows a solid path to that brand, with the potential to transform ethylene production into a greener industry using CO2 that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere.”
The use of copper in the ethylene reaction (C2H4) to initiate the reduction of carbon dioxide has two drawbacks:
• the chemical reaction also produces hydrogen and methane, which is undesirable in industrial production.
• the previous attempts to produce ethylene did not last long, and as the system continued to operate, the conversion efficiency declined.
Researchers are working on designing copper nanowires with highly active “steps”, similar to a set of ladders arranged on the atomic scale in order to overcome these obstacles.
The study also revealed that under reaction conditions, this channel mode through the surface of the nanowire remains stable, which is contrary to popular belief that these high-energy properties will soften. This is the key to system durability and selectivity when producing ethylene rather than other final products.