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Inexpensive catalyst developed, converts carbon dioxide into synthetic fuels

10:38 AM, 24th June 2013
University of Delaware Research News
(From left) Joel Rosenthal, Chemist, University of Delaware and doctoral student John DiMeglio.

DELAWARE, US: Joel Rosenthal, Chemist, University of Delaware and doctoral student John DiMeglio have developed an inexpensive catalyst that converts carbon dioxide into synthetic fuels for powering cars, homes and businesses. The catalyst uses the electricity generated from solar energy for this conversion. The research is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Rosenthal and his team used bismuth catalyst instead of gold and silver. An ounce of bismuth is 50 to 100 times cheaper than an ounce of silver, and 2,000 times cheaper than an ounce of gold, said Rosenthal. Bismuth is more plentiful than gold and silver, it is well distributed globally and is a byproduct in the refining of lead, tin and copper.

According to Rosenthal, the UD-patented catalyst offers other important advantages: selectivity and efficiency in converting carbon dioxide to fuel.

“Most catalysts do not selectively make one compound when combined with carbon dioxide - they make a whole slew. Our goal was to develop a catalyst that was extremely selective in producing carbon monoxide and to power the reaction using solar energy,” explained Rosenthal.

“Many of us hear carbon monoxide and think poison. It’s true that you do not want to be in a closed room with carbon monoxide, but carbon monoxide is very valuable as a commodity chemical because it’s extremely energy rich and has many uses,” said Rosenthal.

Rosenthal said that if carbon dioxide emissions become taxed in the future due to continuing concerns about global warming, his solar-driven catalyst for making synthetic fuel will compete even better economically with fossil fuels.

“This catalyst is a critically important linchpin. Using solar energy to drive the production of liquid fuels such as gasoline from CO2 is one of the holy grails in renewable energy research. In order to do this on a practical scale, inexpensive catalysts that can convert carbon dioxide to energy-rich compounds are needed. Our discovery is important in this regard, and demonstrates that development of new catalysts and materials can solve this problem. Chemists have a big role to play in this area,” said Rosenthal.

“With this advance, there are at least a dozen things we need to follow up on. One successful study usually leads to more questions and possibilities, not final answers,” added Rosenthal.

Through the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED summer research programme, budding scientists from nearby Newark High School will join Rosenthal’s team for further study of this bismuth-based catalyst.

© University of Delaware News

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Sanath Jun 27 2013, At 06:20 am

highest honor is in order. congrats!!!

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