Found a cheap way of turning CO2 into plastic, building materials and even medicines

Carbon dioxide is a waste in many industries. And he is known not only pollutes environment but also is one of the causes of global warming. So if we care about the future of our planet — we need to reduce its content in the atmosphere. But what if you don’t just “deactivate” carbon dioxide, and to produce useful materials? Sounds at first sight is not realistic, but this became possible thanks to a new kind of catalysts.

About the invention writes the edition, Energy & Environmental Science. A substance that will help us to make the seemingly impossible belongs to a class of electrocatalysts. This is the first in the world materials in addition to enzymes living organisms that can efficiency of about 99% to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbon structures containing one, two, three or four carbon atoms. For example, 2 such structures are methylglyoxal (which contains 3 carbons) and 2,3-prandial (4 atoms) can be used as raw material for the production of plastics, adhesives and pharmaceuticals.


Schematic representation of the process of turning carbon dioxide into plastic, resources for the production of various building materials and medicines

“Our breakthrough allows you to transform carbon dioxide into raw material for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.” — said one of the project leaders Professor, Department of chemistry and chemical biology and Department of biochemistry and Microbiology Rutgers University in new Brunswick, Charles Dismukes,

Using five different catalysts made of Nickel and phosphorus, which are pretty cheap and common elements, researchers are able to electrochemically convert carbon dioxide and water in a wide range of products based on carbon. The choice of catalyst and suitable conditions determine the number of carbon atoms can be joined together to get molecules, or even longer polymers.

The next step in the work of the scientists will be figuring out whether to use the new technology for the production of diols, which are widely used in the polymer industry, and how justified is the use of technology to produce hydrocarbons that can be used to produce renewable fuels.

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