Doctoral candidate Elias Frei controls the temperature in the reactor of the catalyst test device. Source: FMF
to researchers at the University of Freiburg in Germany, it is beyond
dispute that carbon dioxide has an effect on global warming as a
greenhouse gas. But we still pump tons and tons of CO2 into the
atmosphere every day.
A research team at the Freiburg Materials Research Center (FMF) led by the chemist Prof. Dr. Ingo Krossing
has now developed a new system for producing methanol that uses CO2 and
hydrogen. Methanol can, for example, be used as an environmentally
friendly alternative for gasoline. The goal of the scientists is to
harness the power of CO2 on a large scale and integrate it into the
utilization cycle as a sustainable form of energy production.
order to produce methanol, Krossing’s doctoral candidates combine the
carbon dioxide with hydrogen in a high pressure environment, a process
known as hydrogenolysis. Doctoral candidate Elias Frei has already been conducting research on methanol for several years.
“Our goal is to develop new catalyst systems and methods for accelerating the chemical reaction even more,” explains Frei.
researchers at FMF use the metal oxides copper, zinc, and zirconium
dioxide as catalysts, enabling the reaction to happen at lower
temperatures. In this way, the gases don’t have to be heated as much.
Together the catalysts form a so-called mixed system of surface-rich
porous solid matter with defined properties. If the catalysts consist of
nanoparticles, their activity is increased even more.
Frei and his colleague Dr. Marina Artamonova
are also testing techniques in which the catalysts are impregnated with
ionic liquids, salts in a liquid state that cover the catalyst like a
thin film. They help to fix CO2 and hydrogen to the catalyst and remove
the products methanol and water from it. This conversion leads to the
production of pure methanol, which is used as a component in the
chemical industry and as a fuel. When used as an alternative to gasoline
it is less dangerous and less harmful to the environment than
conventional fuels. In around two years, the researchers aim to be able
to produce methanol on a mass scale according to this technique. Then
the CO2 will be filtered out of the waste gas stream of a combined heat
and power plant and used to produce methanol. When methanol is burned in
a motor, CO2 is released again. If the same molecule were used twice,
it would theoretically be possible to use 50% less CO2 to create the
same amount of energy. The amount of methanol that could be converted
from 10% of the yearly CO2 emissions in Germany would cover the
country’s yearly fuel needs.
is also used as a chemical means of hydrogen storage and could thus
also be used to power the fuel cells of automobiles in the future.
“There is enough energy out there, but it needs to be stored,” says
Frei. “As a sustainable means of energy storage, methanol has potential
in a wide range of areas. We want to use that potential, because the
storage and conversion of energy are important topics for the future.”
Source: University of Freiburg