Many industries rely on the use of catalysts, which accelerate a certain chemical reaction. One of the most common examples is the liquid fuel industry as catalysts are used to convert oil into kerosene.
A mixed team of researchers from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Northern Illinois University has uncovered a new type of electrocatalyst that can convert water and carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process is very power-efficient, offers multiple choices for the form of the resulting product, and the usage cost is low.
Ethanol is one of the most desirable chemical compounds in the US as it can be found in most, if not all, of the gasoline used in the country and a variety of pharmaceutical and cosmetic products. The use of the new catalyst would benefit nature and several industries at the same time.
According to one of the researchers who contributed to the study, the use of the new catalyst would contribute to a circular carbon economy, which involves the recycling of the well-known greenhouse gas. The electrochemical conversion could be employed to convert carbon dioxide released by fossil fuel power plants and or alcohol processing planets into a usable substance and at an affordable cost.
The catalyst developed by the team features copper that has been dispersed at an atomic level over carbon-powder support. An electrochemical reaction will break down carbon dioxide and water molecules, while certain parts will be assembled into ethanol molecules.
A series of advanced scientific tools were used by the team to monitor the changes which took place during the electrochemical reaction, offering in-depth data that will be used to enhance further iterations of the catalyst and make it even better, with the researchers already being hard at work on this task and the development of new catalysts.
More information can be found in a paper that was published in a scientific journal.