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Home / Science / Argonne National Laboratory broke ground to convert Carbon Dioxide into Ethanol

Argonne National Laboratory broke ground to convert Carbon Dioxide into Ethanol



Clean electricity
Argonne National Lab catalyst

Published on 8 August 2020 |
by Steve Hanley

8 August 2020 by Steve Hanley


Wouldn’t it be great if we could do something useful with excess carbon dioxide beyond capturing it, compressing it and burying it deep in the ocean floor? Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory may have discovered a way to do exactly that.

Argonne National Lab catalyst

Photo credit: Argonne National Lab

According to a press release from ANL, researchers at the lab, working with partners at the University of Northern Illinois, have discovered a new electrical catalyst that can convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol at the same efficiency. Very high energy yield, high selectivity for the desired end product and low price. Ethanol is a particularly popular commodity because it is an ingredient in most US gasoline types and is widely used as an intermediate product in the chemical, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.

Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist at Argonne’s chemical science and engineering department, and also a scientist at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, said: we will contribute to recirculating carbon economy, leading to carbon dioxide reuse at the University of Chicago. “Our catalyst generation will contribute to the recirculating carbon economy, which will lead to the reuse of carbon dioxide,” he said. The new electrochemical process converts carbon dioxide emitted from industrial processes, such as fossil fuel power plants or wine fermentation plants, into a valuable commodity at a reasonable cost.

The catalyst itself is made up of atomically dispersed copper on a carbon powder carrier. It breaks down carbon dioxide and water molecules and selectively reassembles them into ethanol using the external electric field. The catalytic selectivity or Faradaic efficiency of the process is more than 90%, which is significantly higher than when using any other reported process. The catalyst operates stably over extended periods of operation at low voltages.

“With this study, we have discovered a new catalytic mechanism to convert carbon dioxide and water into ethanol,” said Tao Xu, professor of physicochemical and nanotechnology from Northern Illinois University. “This mechanism must also provide the foundation for developing highly efficient electrical catalysts to convert carbon dioxide into a range of value-added chemicals.”

Because CO2 is a stable molecule, converting it into another molecule typically requires a large amount of energy, which makes the conversion costly. “We can combine the electrochemical process that converts CO2 to ethanol using our catalysts into the grid and utilize the low cost electricity available from renewable sources such as energy,” Liu said. sun and wind during off-peak hours. ” Because the process runs at low temperature and pressure, it can start and stop rapidly in response to an intermittent, renewable power supply.

The research took advantage of two facilities at ANL – Advanced Photon Source and Nanoscale Materials Center. It also has access to the lab’s Computer Resource Center. “Thanks to the high photon flux of the X-beam at APS, we have captured the structural changes of the catalyst during the electrochemical reaction,” said Tao Li, assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemistry. said Northern. University of Illinois and Assistant Scientist in Argonne’s X-ray Science department.

The results of this research are opening up new avenues that could lead to further improvements in catalyst design. “We have prepared some new catalysts using this method and found that they are all highly efficient in converting CO2 into other hydrocarbons,” Liu said. “We plan to continue this research in collaboration with industries to advance this promising technology.” The research is recently published in the journal Natural energy.

Carried away

The result of this new study is the creation of a process that can reuse and recycle carbon dioxide for today’s fuels and chemicals derived from oil or natural gas. Note the role of low-cost renewables in this scenario. What we are witnessing is the convergence of technologies that could lead to ways to significantly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide added by industry to the atmosphere and at a much lower cost than maybe before.

Ethanol and other chemicals may result from this and similar processes that are essential building blocks for the plastics industry. If this discovery can be combined with the creation of new recyclable and biodegradable plastics, it would be a major step forward in building a recirculating economy, a economy. economy does not destroy the environment for profit.

Project Drawdown has just announced an update on its roadmap to a sustainable world, something they think can happen today without waiting for new technologies to emerge. This latest news from Argonne National Laboratory can be combined with ideas driven by this latest Shortened Review to help create a business environment built on the notion that talent Earth’s raw materials are finite and should be used as wisely as possible.

Hat Tip To Frank, a CleanTechnica reader, regularly leaves comments on our stories. Thanks, Frank!

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Card: Argonne National Laboratory, carbon capture, circle economy, converting carbon dioxide into fuel, Ethanol


About the author

Steve Hanley Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his Florida and Connecticut homes or anywhere else where singularity can lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platform run by evil lords like Facebook.






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