Scientists in Japan have made important progress towards a chemical reaction that converts the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into useful chemicals.
Carbon dioxide, the most well-known of the greenhouse gases, has long presented a huge challenge for scientists. It’s produced in vast quantities by everything from passenger jets to cattle, and once in the atmosphere it traps heat, becoming a major contributor to global warming.
A great number of both natural and industrial processes produce carbon dioxide as a by-product, but very few processes use up carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis is a notable exception – plants absorb carbon dioxide, using water and energy from the sun to convert it into fuel. If we could mimic this process, we could harness carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to renewable forms of energy.
It’s a huge challenge, and one that has to be broken into manageable steps. One important step that has attracted a great deal of attention among scientists is the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO). Once this conversion has taken place, the carbon monoxide can be used to produce a range of useful fuels and chemicals.
Unfortunately this process is not yet efficient enough to be used industrially, and scientists are still trying to make improvements.
In a new paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s flagship journal, Chemical Science, Japanese chemist Kazuhide Kamiya from Osaka University, along with his research group, have designed a new type of catalyst for performing this conversion.
A solution for global warming
The catalyst consists of large polymeric molecules called covalent triazine frameworks (CTF), which consist of 1,3,5-triazine linker units. The linker units can act as host to various metal atoms, such as cobalt, nickel or copper. The researchers have found that by hosting the metals within these molecules, they can improve the ability of the metals to act as catalysts in the reaction. This brings the possibility of converting CO2 to CO, on a large scale, one step closer to reality.
"Our materials show high CO2 conversion activity and durability, compared with the existing small organometallic complexes", says Dr Kamiya. "Therefore, we expect that our materials and their analogues will become one of the solutions for global warming."
This article is free to read in our open access, flagship journal Chemical Science: Panan Su et al., Chem. Sci., 2018. DOI: 10.1039/C8SC00604K
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