New Technology Creates Carbon-Neutral Chemicals Out of Thin Air

Chemistry Chemical Molecule Concept

The technology could allow for the transformation of  CO2 into useful chemicals such as carbon monoxide and synthetic natural gas in one circular process.

According to research from the University of Surrey, it is possible to capture CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into chemicals that are typically derived from fossil fuels.

The technology enables scientists to capture CO2 and transform it into useful substances like carbon monoxide and synthetic natural gas in a single, continuous process, potentially leading to more sustainable methods of chemical production.

Dr. Melis Duyar, Senior Lecturer of Chemical Engineering at the University of Surrey commented: “Capturing CO2 from the surrounding air and directly converting it into useful products is exactly what we need to approach carbon neutrality in the chemicals sector. This could very well be a milestone in the steps needed for the UK to reach its 2050 net-zero goals. We need to get away from our current thinking on how we produce chemicals, as current practices rely on fossil fuels which are not sustainable. With this technology, we can supply chemicals with a much lower carbon footprint and look at replacing fossil fuels with carbon dioxide and renewable hydrogen as the building blocks of other important chemicals.”

The technology uses patent-pending switchable Dual Function Materials (DFMs), that capture carbon dioxide on their surface and catalyze the conversion of captured CO2 directly into chemicals. The “switchable” nature of the DFMs comes from their ability to produce multiple chemicals depending on the operating conditions or the composition of the added reactant. This makes the technology responsive to variations in demand for chemicals as well as the availability of renewable hydrogen as a reactant.

Dr. Duyar continued: “These outcomes are a testament to the research excellence at Surrey, with continuously improving facilities, internal funding schemes, and a collaborative culture.”

Loukia-Pantzechroula Merkouri, a postgraduate student leading this research at the University of Surrey added: “Not only does this research demonstrate a viable solution to the production of carbon neutral fuels and chemicals, but it also offers an innovative approach to combat the ever-increasing CO2 emissions contributing to global warming.”

Reference: “Feasibility of switchable dual function materials as a flexible technology for CO2 capture and utilisation and evidence of passive direct air capture” by Loukia-Pantzechroula Merkouri, Tomas Ramirez Reina and Melis S. Duyar, 11 August 2022, Nanoscale.
DOI: 10.1039/D2NR02688K

The study was made possible through the Surrey Doctoral College Studentship Award.

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