Thursday, January 14, 2016

Science & Technology: Geothermal Power Helps in Carbon Dioxide-to-Methanol Process

Carbon dioxide-to-methanol catalyst ignites ‘fuel from air’ debate (Chemistry World)

Location of the CRI facility next to the Svartsengi geothermal
plant and the Blue Lagoon (Courtesy Carbon Recycling International)
Chemists in the US have created a catalyst system that they say is the first to make methanol straight from the tiny concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. The approach developed by George Olah and Surya Prakash’s University of Southern California (USC) team uses milder conditions than existing carbon dioxide-to-methanol processes. It is an initial step towards realizing the group’s vision of making fuel from nothing but gases from the air and renewable energy, Prakash tells Chemistry World. However, Harvard University’s David Keith, a leading expert on ‘air capture’ of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, is sceptical the new process can deliver on that promise.

The USC chemists advise Carbon Recycling International (CRI) based in Reykjavik in Iceland, which operates an industrial carbon dioxide-to-methanol plant named after Olah, who won the chemistry Nobel prize in 1994 for his work on carbocations. The company’s location next to the Svartsengi geothermal plant allows it to exploit geothermal steam, which is rich in carbon dioxide, provides heat and can be used to generate electricity without burning fossil fuels. This lets CRI electrolytically split water and get hydrogen to reduce carbon dioxide to methanol.

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