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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

U of I study: synthetic fuels via CO2 conversion and FT not currently economically & environmentally competitive

July 03, 2016

A study by a team at University of Illinois at Urbana−Champaign has found that, with currently achievable performance levels, synthetic fuels produced via the electrochemical reduction of CO2 and the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process system are not economically and environmentally competitive with using petroleum-based fuel. A paper detailing the study is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels.

In their paper, the team investigated an integrated system that converts CO2 released from fossil fuel-burning power plants to synthetic diesel fuel via a combination of the electrochemical reduction of CO2 to CO and the FT process, which uses CO and H2 from electrolysis) as feedstocks.

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Ford first automaker to use captured CO2 to develop foam and plastic for vehicles

May 16, 2016

Ford Motor Company is the first automaker to formulate and test new foam and plastic components using carbon dioxide as feedstock. Researchers expect to see the new biomaterials in Ford production vehicles within five years.

Formulated with up to 50% CO2-based polyols, the foam is showing promise as it meets rigorous automotive test standards. It could be employed in seating and underhood applications, potentially reducing petroleum use by more than 600 million pounds annually. CO2-derived foam will further reduce the use of fossil fuels in Ford vehicles and increase the presence of sustainable foam in the automaker’s global lineup.

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New $30M ARPA-E program to produce renewable liquid fuels from renewable energy, air and water

April 26, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program for technologies that use renewable energy to convert air and water into cost-competitive liquid fuels. (DE-FOA-0001562)

ARPA-E’s Renewable Energy to Fuels through Utilization of Energy-dense Liquids (REFUEL) program seeks to develop technologies that use renewable energy to convert air and water into Carbon Neutral Liquid Fuels (CNLF). The program is focused in two areas: (1) the synthesis of CNLFs using intermittent renewable energy sources and water and air (N2 and CO2) as the only chemical input streams; and (2) the conversion of CNLFs delivered to the end point to another form of energy (e.g. hydrogen or electricity).

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Stanford team devises new bio-inspired strategy for using CO2 to produce multi-carbon compounds such as plastics and fuels

March 10, 2016

Researchers at Stanford University have devised a new strategy for using CO2 in the synthesis of multi-carbon compounds. They first have applied their technology to the production of a plastic—a promising alternative to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) called polyethylene furandicarboxylate (PEF)—but are now working to apply the new chemistry to the production of renewable fuels and other compounds from hydrogen and CO2.

Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry at Stanford, and his Stanford colleagues described the process and their results in synthesizing PEF in a paper in the journal Nature.

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Researchers convert atmospheric CO2 to carbon nanofibers and nanotubes for use as anodes in Li-ion and Na-ion batteries

March 03, 2016

Researchers from George Washington University and Vanderbilt University have demonstrated the conversion of atmospheric CO2 into carbon nanofibers (CNFs) and carbon nanotubes (CNTs) for use as high-performance anodes in both lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries. As described in an open-access paper in the journal ACS Central Science, optimized storage capacities were more than 370 mAh g-1 (lithium) and 130 mAh g-1 (sodium) with no capacity fade under durability tests up to 200 and 600 cycles, respectively.

The conversion process builds upon the solar thermal electro-chemical process (STEP) introduced by GWU Professor Stuart Licht and his colleagues in 2009. (Earlier post.) STEP is an efficient solar chemical process, based on a synergy of solar thermal and endothermic electrolyses, designed to convert greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into a useful carbon commodity. In short, STEP uses solar thermal energy to increase the system temperature to decrease electrolysis potentials.

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UTA researchers demonstrate one-step solar process to convert CO2 and H2O directly into renewable liquid hydrocarbon fuels

February 23, 2016

Researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have demonstrated a new solar process for the one-step, gas-phase conversion of CO2 and H2O to C5+ liquid hydrocarbons and O2 by operating the photocatalytic reaction at elevated temperatures and pressures.

The photothermocatalytic process for the synthesis of hydrocarbons—including liquid alkanes, aromatics, and oxygenates, with carbon numbers (Cn) up to C13—ran in a flow photoreactor operating at elevated temperatures (180–200 °C) and pressures (1–6 bar) using a 5% cobalt on TiO2 catalyst and under UV irradiation. A paper describing the process is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

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USC team develops highly efficient catalyst system for converting CO2 to methanol; 79% yield from CO2 captured from air

February 03, 2016

Researchers at Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, have developed a highly efficient homogeneous Ru-based catalyst system for the production of methanol (CH3OH) from CO2 and H2 in an ethereal solvent (initial turnover frequency = 70 h−1 at 145 °C).

In a paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, they reported demonstrating for the first time that CO2 captured from air can be directly converted to CH3OH in 79% yield using the new homogeneous catalytic system.

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Berkeley Lab team creates “cyborgian” hybrid artificial photosynthesis system; CO2 to acetic acid at high yield

January 05, 2016

Researchers at Berkeley Lab have induced the self-photosensitization of a nonphotosynthetic bacterium—Moorella thermoacetica—with cadmium sulfide nanoparticles (M. thermoacetica–CdS), enabling the photosynthesis of acetic acid from carbon dioxide.

Their hybrid approach combines the highly efficient light harvesting of inorganic semiconductors with the high specificity, low cost, and self-replication and -repair of biocatalysts. Biologically precipitated cadmium sulfide nanoparticles served as the light harvester to sustain cellular metabolism. This self-augmented biological system selectively produced acetic acid continuously over several days of light-dark cycles at relatively high quantum yields, demonstrating a self-replicating route toward solar-to-chemical CO2 reduction. A paper on their work is published in Science.

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Global Bioenergies widens cooperation with Audi; new agreement to broaden feedstocks for bio-isobutene to isooctane process

January 04, 2016

Global Bioenergies and Audi have signed a new collaboration agreement (earlier post) to further broaden the feedstock flexibility of Global Bioenergies’ bio-isobutene process, which uses fermentation of sugars.

The two companies last year announced the delivery by Global Bioenergies to Audi of a first batch of bio-isobutene-derived iso-octane, a premium drop-in fuel for gasoline engines. (Earlier post.) Global Bioenergies had produced isobutene using its pilot plant located on the agri-business site of Pomacle, France. The isobutene was then shipped to Germany and converted into isooctane.

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$3M UK project to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass

December 22, 2015

Heriot-Watt University in the UK will lead a £2-million (US$3-million) project (EP/N009924/1) to develop low-carbon aviation fuels from captured CO2 and waste biomass. The multi-disciplinary project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will be led by Heriot-Watt engineers and scientists in conjunction with teams from Aston and Oxford Universities and the University of Edinburgh.

The project aims to produce low-carbon synthetic aviation jet fuel using renewable energy from waste agricultural and forestry biomass and captured CO2. The project team will use integrated chemistry (a bottom-up method to develop novel catalysts and electrodes) and engineering (a top-down method to tailor heat and mass transport parameters influencing reaction conditions) with a focus on high selective and efficient jet fuel production.

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HeidelbergCement and Joule partnering to explore carbon-neutral fuel application in cement manufacturing

December 14, 2015

Joule, a pioneer in the production of liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and HeidelbergCement, a German multinational building material company, are partnering to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing. Cement manufacturing is highly energy and emissions intensive, currently contributing about 6% of global CO2 (Zhang et al. 2014).

As part of the agreement, emissions (or offtake gas) from various HeidelbergCement factories could provide Joule with the waste CO2 required to feed its advanced Helioculture platform that effectively recycles CO2 back into fuel.

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Linde pilot testing dry reforming process to generate syngas from CO2 and methane for production of fuels and chemicals

October 16, 2015

As part of its R&D strategy, Linde has built a pilot reformer facility at Pullach near Munich—Linde’s largest location worldwide—to test dry-reforming technology. The dry reforming process catalytically combines CH4, the principal component of natural gas, and CO2 to produce syngas (CO and H2). Syngas is then used to produce valuable downstream products such as base chemicals or fuels.

The dry reforming process differs from steam reforming, which combines CH4 and water (H2O) in the form of steam to produce the syngas. Producing the steam is energy-intensive; dry reforming requires far less water, and hence avoids the energy burden of steam production. In addition to reducing energy consumption, the dry reforming process also consumes recycled carbon dioxide.

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GWU team develops low-cost, high-yield one-pot synthesis of carbon nanofibers from atmospheric CO2

August 21, 2015

A team led by Dr. Stuart Licht at The George Washington University in Washington, DC has developed a low-cost, high-yield and scalable process for the electrolytic conversion of atmospheric CO2 dissolved in molten carbonates into carbon nanofibers (CNFs.) The conversion of CO2 → CCNF + O2 can be driven by efficient solar, as well as conventional, energy at inexpensive steel or nickel electrodes.

The structure is tuned by controlling the electrolysis conditions, such as the addition of trace transition metals to act as CNF nucleation sites; the addition of zinc as an initiator; and the control of current density. An open access paper on their work is published in the ACS journal Nano Letters; the work was also presented at ACS’ 250th National Meeting & Exposition this week in Boston.

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Argonne team finds copper cluster catalyst effective for low-pressure conversion of CO2 to methanol with high activity

August 07, 2015

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory have identified a new material to catalyze the conversion of CO2 via hydrogenation to methanol (CH3OH): size-selected Cu4 clusters—clusters of four copper atoms each, called tetramers—supported on Al2O3 thin films.

In a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the team measured catalytic activity under near-atmospheric reaction conditions with a low CO2 partial pressure, and investigated the oxidation state of the clusters using in situ grazing incidence X-ray absorption spectroscopy. Results indicated that size-selected Cu4 clusters are the most active low-pressure catalyst for catalytic conversion of CO2to methanol; Density functional theory calculations revealed that Cu4 clusters have a low activation barrier for the conversion. The results suggest, they concluded, that small copper clusters may be excellent and efficient catalysts for the recycling of released CO2.

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EPA opens door to consider Carbon Capture and Utilization as part of new Clean Power Plan; algae industry locks on

August 04, 2015

EPA’s newly released voluminous final Clean Power Plan rule (earlier post) has established the first national standards to limit CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants (Electric Generating Units, EGUs), with a target of a 32% reduction against a 2005 baseline by 2030.

The plan calls for each US state to establish a plan to meet the targeted reductions. Within the text of the final CPP rules, EPA opened up the possibility of allowing “affected EGU (Electric Generating Units) to use qualifying CCU [Carbon Capture and Utilization] technologies to reduce CO2 emissions that are subject to an emission standard, or those that are counted when demonstrating achievement of the CO2 emission performance rates or a state rate-based or mass-based CO2 emission.

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Geely invests in Carbon Recycling Intl.; vehicles fueled by methanol from CO2, water and renewable energy

July 08, 2015

Zhejiang Geely Holding Group (Geely Group) will invest a total of US$45.5 million in Carbon Recycling International (CRI). The investment consists of an initial investment and additional purchases of CRI equity over a 3-year period. Geely Group will become a major shareholder of CRI and will gain representation on the company’s Board of Directors.

CRI, founded in 2006 in Reykjavik, Iceland, is developing technology to produce renewable methanol from clean energy and recycled CO2 emissions. Geely Group and CRI intend to collaborate on the deployment of renewable methanol fuel production technology in China and explore the development and deployment of 100% methanol-fueled vehicles in China, Iceland and other countries. The companies say they a vision for a larger role for methanol as a clean and sustainable fuel worldwide.

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