Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst – Converts CO2 to Methanol and Water

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered a new catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) to methanol-a key commodity used to create a wide range of industrial chemicals and fuels. With significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use, the new system could make it easier to get normally unreactive CO2 to participate in these reactions.

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Scanning tunneling microscope image of a cerium-oxide and copper catalyst (CeOx-Cu) used in the
transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) gases to methanol (CH3OH) and water (H2O).
In the presence of hydrogen, the Ce4+ and Cu+1 are reduced to Ce3+ and Cu0
with a change in the structure of the catalyst surface. Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory


“Developing an effective catalyst for synthesizing methanol from CO2 could greatly expand the use of this abundant gas as an economical feedstock,” said Brookhaven chemist Jose Rodriguez, who led the research. It’s even possible to imagine a future in which such catalysts help mitigate the accumulation of this greenhouse gas, by capturing CO2 emitted from methanol-powered combustion engines and fuel cells, and recycling it to synthesize new fuel.
That future, of course, will be determined by a variety of factors, including economics. “Our basic research studies are focused on the science-the discovery of how such catalysts work, and the use of this knowledge to improve their activity and selectivity,” Rodriguez emphasized.
The research team, which included scientists from Brookhaven, the University of Seville in Spain, and Central University of Venezuela, describes their results in the August 1, 2014, issue of the journal Science.

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