From greenhouse gas to fuel

August 01, 2019

A growing number of scientists are looking for fast, cost-effective ways to convert carbon dioxide gas into valuable chemicals and fuels.

Now, an international team of researchers has revealed a new approach that utilizes a series of catalytic reactions to electrochemically reduce carbon dioxide to methane, the main ingredient in natural gas, eliminating an intermediate step usually needed in the reduction process.

"We want to supply renewable electricity and take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to something else in one step," said Bingjun Xu , a University of Delaware assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. "This is a key contribution to this vision."

The team's results were published in the journal Nature Communications on July 26, 2019. Two of the study authors are based at UD: Xu and postdoctoral associate Xiaoxia Chang. Another study author, Qi Lu of Tsinghua University in China, was formerly a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD.

The paper's authors also include Haochen Zhen from Tsinghua University, Jingguang Chen from Columbia University, William Goddard III from the California Institute of Technology and Mu-Jeng Cheng from National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan.

A one-pot system

To convert carbon dioxide into valuable fuels, you have to start with a surface made of copper, the metal famous for its use in pennies and electrical wiring. Copper can be used to reduce carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which can then be further transformed into substances such as methane. This process is relatively simple, but it requires two reactors and costly separation and purification steps.

The research team used computations and experiments to design a one-pot catalysis system. Add carbon dioxide, and a series of chemical reactions will happen without the need to stop and add more chemicals.

To do this, the team added special nanostructured silver surfaces, which were developed by Lu when he was a postdoctoral associate at UD from 2012 to 2015, to the copper surfaces. The silver portion attracts carbon monoxide molecules, which then migrate to the copper portion and reduce to methane. The system yields a higher concentration of methane than copper-only systems.

"In this work the primary novelty is to combine these two in a configuration so that several steps of reaction could occur in one system," said Xu. "We systematically modified the composition, the silver-to-copper ratio in the structure. Those are key to the selectivity and ability to combine the reactions."

Previous attempts to combine copper with precious metal in this way have failed, but the group developed a special type of electrode structure that enabled the system. The research was the result of a collaborative effort with research groups contributing spectroscopy, computation, and studies of the reactivity of materials.
-end-


University of Delaware

Related Science Articles from Brightsurf:

75 science societies urge the education department to base Title IX sexual harassment regulations on evidence and science
The American Educational Research Association (AERA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) today led 75 scientific societies in submitting comments on the US Department of Education's proposed changes to Title IX regulations.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, biopharma, and pharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2018 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Science in the palm of your hand: How citizen science transforms passive learners
Citizen science projects can engage even children who previously were not interested in science.

Applied science may yield more translational research publications than basic science
While translational research can happen at any stage of the research process, a recent investigation of behavioral and social science research awards granted by the NIH between 2008 and 2014 revealed that applied science yielded a higher volume of translational research publications than basic science, according to a study published May 9, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Xueying Han from the Science and Technology Policy Institute, USA, and colleagues.

Prominent academics, including Salk's Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science
Six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes.

World Science Forum 2017 Jordan issues Science for Peace Declaration
On behalf of the coordinating organizations responsible for delivering the World Science Forum Jordan, the concluding Science for Peace Declaration issued at the Dead Sea represents a global call for action to science and society to build a future that promises greater equality, security and opportunity for all, and in which science plays an increasingly prominent role as an enabler of fair and sustainable development.

PETA science group promotes animal-free science at society of toxicology conference
The PETA International Science Consortium Ltd. is presenting two posters on animal-free methods for testing inhalation toxicity at the 56th annual Society of Toxicology (SOT) meeting March 12 to 16, 2017, in Baltimore, Maryland.

Citizen Science in the Digital Age: Rhetoric, Science and Public Engagement
James Wynn's timely investigation highlights scientific studies grounded in publicly gathered data and probes the rhetoric these studies employ.

Science/Science Careers' survey ranks top biotech, pharma, and biopharma employers
The Science and Science Careers' 2016 annual Top Employers Survey polled employees in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical, pharmaceutical, and related industries to determine the 20 best employers in these industries as well as their driving characteristics.

Three natural science professors win TJ Park Science Fellowship
Professor Jung-Min Kee (Department of Chemistry, UNIST), Professor Kyudong Choi (Department of Mathematical Sciences, UNIST), and Professor Kwanpyo Kim (Department of Physics, UNIST) are the recipients of the Cheong-Am (TJ Park) Science Fellowship of the year 2016.

Read More: Science News and Science Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.