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Researchers Aim to Gain Cleaner Fuel from CO2

A recent research project from the University of Surrey aims to use the planet’s air to manufacture new chemicals for fuel and other important chemical goods.

Researchers Aim to Gain Cleaner Fuel from CO2.

Image Credit: pogonici

The goal of the research is to capture CO2 effectively from the air and use dynamic catalysis to manufacture methanol, a powerful chemical that may be carbon-negative if produced in this manner. Its worth may be sufficient to compensate for the cost of direct air capture.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has granted £250,000 to the study as part of the Adventurous Energy Research for a Sustainable Net-Zero scheme.

Synthesizing methanol would constitute a significant advancement, coupling a presently expensive but necessary method of CO2 capture from the air, with the production of a substance that can bring some revenue to offset costs and further incentivize the scaling up of direct air capture.

Dr. Melis Duyar, Project Lead, University of Surrey

The main challenge for our project will be reconciling the fact that commercial methanol synthesis takes place at high pressures (50-100 bar) and moderate temperatures (200-300 o C), while direct air capture is typically carried out in ambient conditions. We want to show that it is possible to produce methanol in mild conditions through dynamic catalysis,” Dr. Duyar added.

If their study is successful, the Surrey team plans to expand the project to demonstrate that other chemicals with a negative carbon impact, such as sustainable fertilizer, may be synthesized.

Pulling chemical building blocks directly out of the air can create a ‘just in time’ process that will help us finally say goodbye to safety hazards such as storing large quantities of chemicals. Importantly, this process could boost the economy by spurring carbon-negative growth, as well as provide fuel security for the UK.

Dr. Melis Duyar, Project Lead, University of Surrey

Direct air collection and storage is one of the three major ways of achieving Net Zero, according to the International Energy Agency, and methanol production utilizing hydrogen and CO2 is a major innovation gap.

One of the most significant advantages of direct air capture technology is that, unlike biomass, it does not require large land and water consumption.

Professor Bob Nichol, Executive Lead of Sustainability and Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Surrey, comments, “This is exactly the innovative research we do here at the University of Surrey with real societal impact. I wish my colleagues every success as we need these solutions to become a more sustainable planet.”

In 2020, the UK imported £145 million worth of methanol, equating to 0.6–1.6 megatons of CO2, contrasted to the UK’s total CO2 emissions of 326 megatons that year.


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