Carbon Dioxide into Ethanol direct conversion seems possible

A team of scientists recently made appropriate steps for zero-net-carbon technology in which carbon dioxide and hydrogen will be converted into ethanol, so that further ethanol can be used as fuel and other chemical applications.

The study presented a full plan to carry out this difficult reaction and also provided the full reaction sequence with the help of theoretical modeling and experimental characterization.

The study led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and group, published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, figured out that if cesium, copper, and zinc oxide are brought close together, then such can catalyze the reaction which converts CO2 into ethanol (C2H6O).

This will further help to develop technologies that become able to recycle CO2 emitted into the atmosphere into important chemicals and fuels.

The three components mentioned are individually not able to catalyze the CO2-to-ethanol conversion and even not in pairs. But when they are brought together in a specific way, the place where they meet opens a new path for the carbon-carbon bond formation due to which such transformation is possible. The interplay between the cesium, copper, and zinc oxide sites is important to carry out this process.

Brookhaven chemist and researcher Ping Liu said,

“Lot of work has been done on CO2 conversion to methanol but yet ethanol has many advantages over methanol. Ethanol is much safer and potent as a fuel. But its development is very difficult due to complex reactions and difficulty in controlling C-C bond formation. Each component plays an important role which is known to us.”

Small amount of copper and cesium deposited onto a surface of zinc oxide. X-ray photoemission spectroscopy is then used to study the area where they meet. It also showed the reaction mechanism for CO2 hydrogenation when cesium was added.
Researchers observed that cesium is an important component of the active system and that C2H6O can not be made good in its absence.

Also, better coordination with copper and zinc oxide is also important. Still there are more challenges before the industrial application of this method. Selectivity towards ethanol production needs to be improved. Behaviour of catalyst and reaction mechanism, how these two affect each other is still needed to be studied.

Still, the ideal catalyst for CO2 conversion to “higher” alcohols, having two or more carbon atoms for more useful industrial applications, needs to be figured out.


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