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Green technology to turn CO2 into plastic

Monday, 21 September 2020 07:27

This is an important chemical that is used to produce plastics, solvents, cosmetics, and other important products globally. Until now it is obtained from hydrocarbons. Scientists developed nanoscale copper wires with specially shaped surfaces to catalyze a chemical reaction that reduces greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously generating ethylene, a valuable chemical.


Computational studies of the reaction show that the shaped catalyst favors the production of ethylene over hydrogen or methane. A study detailing the advance was published in Nature Catalysis. "We are on the brink of fossil fuel depletion, along with the challenges of global climate change," Yu Huang, a corresponding co-author of the study and a professor of materials science and engineering at UCLA, said in a statement.


Tecnología verde para convertir CO2 en plástico


"Developing materials that can efficiently convert greenhouse gases into value-added fuels and chemical feedstocks is a critical step in mitigating global warming while avoiding the extraction of increasingly limited fossil fuels. This integrated experiment and theoretical analysis presents a sustainable path toward carbon dioxide recycling and utilization " he stated.


Currently, ethylene has a global annual production of 158 million tons. Much of that is turned into polyethylene, which is used in plastic packaging. Ethylene is processed from hydrocarbons, such as natural gas.


"The idea of ​​using copper to catalyze this reaction has been around for a long time, but the key is to accelerate the rate so that it is fast enough for industrial production" said William A. Goddard III, study co-author and professor of chemistry, Materials Science and Applied Physics from Caltech. "This study shows a solid path to that brand, with the potential to transform ethylene production into a greener industry using CO2 that would otherwise end up in the atmosphere."


The use of copper to initiate the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the ethylene reaction (C2H4) has suffered two blows against it. First, the initial chemical reaction also produced hydrogen and methane, both undesirable in industrial production. Second, previous attempts that resulted in ethylene production did not last long, and the conversion efficiency decreased as the system continued to operate.


To overcome these two hurdles, the researchers focused on designing copper nanowires with highly active "steps", similar to a set of ladders arranged on an atomic scale. An intriguing finding from this collaborative study is that this pattern of passages through the nanowire surfaces remained stable under the reaction conditions, contrary to the general belief that these high-energy characteristics would soften. This is the key to both the durability and selectivity of the system in the production of ethylene, rather than other end products.


The team demonstrated a conversion rate of carbon dioxide to ethylene of more than 70%, much more efficient than previous designs, which produced at least 10% less under the same conditions. The new system ran for 200 hours, with little change in conversion efficiency, a major advance for copper-based catalysts. Furthermore, the comprehensive understanding of the structure-function relationship illustrated a new perspective for designing highly active and durable CO2 reduction catalysts in action.


Source: Verde, T., 2020. Tecnología Verde Para Convertir CO2 En Plástico. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21 September 2020].

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