Too green to be true? Researchers develop highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol

Jun 20, 2013

Université Laval researchers have developed a highly effective method for converting CO2 into methanol, which can be used as a low-emissions fuel for vehicles. The team led by Professor Frédéric-Georges Fontaine presents the details of this discovery in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Researchers have been looking for a way to convert carbon dioxide into methanol in a single step using energy-efficient processes for years. "In the presence of oxygen, methanol combustion produces CO2 and water," explained Professor Fontaine. "Chemists are looking for catalysts that would yield the opposite reaction. That would allow us to slash by synthesizing a fuel that would reduce our dependence on fossil fuels."

The catalyst developed by Frédéric-Georges Fontaine and his team is made of two chemical groups. The first is borane, a compound of boron, carbon, and hydrogen. The second, phosphine, is made up of phosphorus, carbon, and hydrogen. "Unlike most catalysts developed thus far to convert CO2 into methanol, ours contains no metal, which reduces both the costs and toxic hazard of the catalyst," added the chemistry professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

CO2 to methanol requires a source of hydrogen and . The researchers had the idea of using a compound called hydroborane (BH3), and the results have been spectacular. The reaction achieved is two times more effective than the best catalyst known—and it produces little waste. What makes the discovery even more compelling is the fact that the chemical reaction does not damage the , which can be reactivated by adding new substrate.

The only downside of the operation is the price tag. "Our approach to creating methanol is highly effective from a chemistry standpoint, but for now the process is expensive," explained Professor Fontaine. "It takes a lot of energy to synthesize hydroborane, which makes it more expensive than . We are working on ways to make the process more profitable by optimizing the reaction and exploring other hydrogen sources."

Explore further: Research pair devise a way to make nylon precursor that is less harmful to the ozone layer

Related Stories

New method for producing clean hydrogen

May 21, 2013

Duke University engineers have developed a novel method for producing clean hydrogen, which could prove essential to weaning society off of fossil fuels and their environmental implications.

Metal-free catalyst outperforms platinum in fuel cell

Jun 05, 2013

Researchers from South Korea, Case Western Reserve University and University of North Texas have discovered an inexpensive and easily produced catalyst that performs better than platinum in oxygen-reduction ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 13

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
1.5 / 5 (16) Jun 20, 2013
Of course manufacturing BH3 costs three arms and a leg.
Howhot
4.2 / 5 (10) Jun 20, 2013
I just can't get enough of the borane compounds. They are so fun. Take silly putty;
1/4 cup glue (Elmers white)
3/8 cup water
1 tablespoon borax.

NikFromNYC
1.7 / 5 (15) Jun 21, 2013
An early eye opener that wasn't in the textbooks was how every time I tried to add a drop of primary (long unbranched carbon chain) amine to a reaction flask, the liquid amine solidified in air as it reacted with CO2 to form a carbamate. The way nitrogen also forms highly polar bonds to boron is the stuff of future atom scale electronics especially since those bonds can be loosened by polar solvents to allow self-assembly to occur where mere hydrocarbon bonds would just polymerize into a permanent mess.
Neinsense99
3.2 / 5 (9) Jun 23, 2013
This interesting science is Quebec's way of saying sorry for those times when you've been forced to listen to the same Celine Dion song again and again and again....
VendicarE
4.6 / 5 (10) Jun 23, 2013
Thank God for government funded science.
antigoracle
1.5 / 5 (17) Jun 23, 2013
Too green to be true?

Yes. No question.
deepsand
3.2 / 5 (16) Jun 23, 2013
AO is like an insane woodpecker looking for a grub in a block of concrete.
antigoracle
1.6 / 5 (14) Jun 24, 2013
AO is like an insane woodpecker looking for a grub in a block of concrete.

Like the turd it is, bobbing up and down in its cesspool of ignorance, the AGW Alarmist returns to regurgitate the filth it feeds on, all to the delight of its cult members.
Neinsense99
3.4 / 5 (10) Jun 24, 2013
Economically unfeasible.

Like most new approaches during the preliminary research phase, including lots of technology you make use of every day.
deepsand
2.5 / 5 (13) Jun 25, 2013
AO is like an insane woodpecker looking for a grub in a block of concrete.

Like the turd it is, bobbing up and down in its cesspool of ignorance, the AGW Alarmist returns to regurgitate the filth it feeds on, all to the delight of its cult members.

You lack the humour to be entertaining, the knowledge to be informative, and have all the charm and attraction of a deceased rat which suffered from leprosy and incontinence.
antialias_physorg
3.6 / 5 (9) Jun 25, 2013
Economically unfeasible.

Remember 'economically unfeasible' computers? Cell phones? Solar panels? Wind farms? ...
Whatever happened to those?
Birger
5 / 5 (2) Aug 14, 2013
You have to put the energy in for an end product that has more energy than carbon dioxide and the other raw materials. If the process has too many steps, losses will make the idea unfeasible compared to other sources of methanol.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 14, 2013
losses will make the idea unfeasible compared to other sources of methanol.

At some point it doesn't matter if it's a bit more costly. Because if you use other (primary) sources of methanol you're killing the basis for (human) life on this planet.

Money isn't everything. Survival is.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.