RESEARCH
April 20, 2009

Fuel from air

Mix air with the right type of carbon molecule and the right form of hydrogen, and you can turn carbon dioxide into methanol.

The technique uses an organic catalyst rather than the metal catalysts of previous approaches. The catalyst is a form of the highly reactive carbon molecule carbene. Unlike metal catalysts, carbene doesn't break down in oxygen. This makes it possible to use air as the source of carbon dioxide.

The chemical process occurs at close to room temperature, which opens the possibility of a low-cost production system.

Methanol is a biofuel and a fuel for some types of fuel cells.

Research paper:
Conversion of Carbon Dioxide into Methanol with Silanes over N-Heterocyclic Carbene Catalysts
Angewandte Chemie International Edition, published online March 31, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Yugen Zhang
Jackie Y. Ying

Related stories and briefs:
Sunlit nanotubes turn water and CO2 into fuel -- related research


Back to ERN April 20, 2009

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