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Carbon Capture and Conversion (CCC)

[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.]

Copper foam catalyst yields different product slate from CO2 than smooth electrodes; importance of catalyst architecture

August 13, 2014

A catalyst made from a foamy form of copper has different electrochemical properties from catalysts made with smooth copper in reactions involving carbon dioxide, according to a new study by a team from Brown University. The research, reported in the journal ACS Catalysis, suggests that copper foams could provide a new way of converting excess CO2 into useful industrial chemicals.

The researchers showed that the electrochemical reduction of CO2 at copper foams yields formic acid at a lower onset potential with faradaic efficiencies that are 10−20% higher than other reported values. In comparison to smooth copper electrodes, the faradaic efficiencies of CO, methane, and ethylene are reduced significantly, whereas C2 and C3 products such as ethane and propylene are produced in small but detectable quantities—overall, a very different product outcome than obtained from planar electrodes.

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New catalytic system for conversion of CO2 to methanol shows much higher activity than others now in use

August 01, 2014

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Scanning tunneling microscope image of a cerium-oxide and copper catalyst (CeOx-Cu) used in the transformation of CO2 and H2 to methanol (CH3OH) and water. In the presence of hydrogen, the Ce4+ and Cu1+ are reduced to Ce3+ and Cu0 with a change in the structure of the catalyst surface. Source: BNL. Click to enlarge.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, with colleagues from the University of Seville (Spain) and Universidad Central de Venezuela, have discovered a new, highly active catalytic system for converting carbon dioxide to methanol.

The pure metals and bimetallic systems used for the chemical activation of CO2 usually have low catalytic activity; the new system exhibits significantly higher activity than other catalysts now in use. The new catalyst system converts CO2 to methanol more than a thousand times faster than plain copper particles, and almost 90 times faster than a common copper/zinc-oxide catalyst currently in industrial use.

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New catalyst improves conversion of CO2 to syngas

July 30, 2014

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) have identified molybdenum disulfide as a promising cost-effective substitute for noble metal catalysts for the electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide. A paper on their work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

While noble metals such as gold and silver are able to reduce carbon dioxide at moderate rates and low overpotentials, their cost is a challenge to the development of inexpensive systems with an efficient CO2 reduction capability. Amin Salehi-Khojin, UIC professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and his colleagues developed a novel two-step catalytic process for CO2reduction that uses molybdenum disulfide and an ionic liquid. The new catalyst improves efficiency and lowers cost.

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Joule first to gain US EPA clearance for commercial use of modified cyanobacteria for fuel production

July 01, 2014

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has favorably reviewed Joule’s Microbial Commercial Activity Notice (MCAN) for the company’s first commercial ethanol-producing catalyst (a modified Synechococcus cyanobacterium). This clears the catalyst for commercial use at the company’s demonstration plant in Hobbs, New Mexico.

This also marks the first time that EPA has allowed the commercial use of a modified cyanobacterium (although not of other modified microorganisms such as S. cerevisiae, E. coli, T. reesei, etc.). (The full list of EPA notifications under the Toxic Substances Control Act—TSCA—is available here.)

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Researchers propose CO2 recycling to improve Fischer-Tropsch GTL efficiency and reduce total CO2 emissions

June 21, 2014

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Overview of the CUGP processes. Credit: ACS, Zhang et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers in South Korea are suggesting two new carbon-dioxide-utilized Gas-to-Liquids processes (CUGP) to increase the overall efficiency of conventional Fischer-Tropsch GTL. In a paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, they report that the two CUGP options increase carbon efficiency by 21.1−41.3% and thermal efficiency by 15.7−40.7%, with total CO2 emissions reduced by 82.0−88.4%, compared to different conventional F-T processes.

This results in a decrease in total CO2 emissions to less than 5g CO2/MJ F-T product, compared to a range of 27.0 to 36.2g CO2/MJ F-T product for the conventional processes.

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Study suggests energy and GHG impacts of synthetic hydrocarbon fuels from CO2 are greater than impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels

June 06, 2014

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Synthetic fuel production from fuel-combustion-based energy and CO2 (top) and from atmospheric CO2 using solar electricity (bottom). Credit: ACS, van der Giesen et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Leiden University, The Netherlands) have concluded that the energy demand and climate impacts of using CO2 to produce synthetic hydrocarbon fuels by using existing technologies can be greater than the impacts of existing hydrocarbon fuels. Their quantitative lifecycle assessment of the environmental merits of liquid hydrocarbon fuels produced from CO2, water and energy compared to alternative fuel production routes is published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

In their study, the researchers evaluated five hypothetical production routes using different sources of CO2 and energy. The team undertook the work specifically to investigate four general arguments that have been proposed in support of such fuels:

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Study for European Parliament assesses options for turning CO2 into methanol for use in transport

May 25, 2014

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Carbon dioxide recycling in the methanol economy Source: Olah et al. 2009, earlier post. Click to enlarge.

A report prepared by ISIS (Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems - Italy) together with Tecnalia (Spain) for the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) discusses the technological, environmental and economic barriers for producing methanol from carbon dioxide, as well as the possible uses of methanol in car transport in Europe.

The study evaluated costs and benefits from a life cycle perspective in order to compare various raw materials for producing methanol and in order to reflect the potential benefits of methanol obtained from CO2. The report concluded that benefits in the medium- and long-term can be anticipated since the obtaining of an alternative fuel using a residual greenhouse gas would allow European dependence on conventional fossil fuels to be cut, and that way the risks in supply security to be minimized.

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SOLAR-JET project demonstrates solar-driven thermochemical conversion of CO2 and water to jet fuel

April 28, 2014

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SOLAR-JET concentrated thermochemical reactor. Red arrow indicates ceria reduction (oxygen evolution); blue arrow indicates oxidation (fuel production). Click to enlarge.

The EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has demonstrated the production of aviation kerosene from concentrated sunlight, CO2 captured from air, and water. The process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.

SOLAR-JET (Solar chemical reactor demonstration and Optimization for Long-term Availability of Renewable JET fuel) uses sunlight in a concentrated solar reactor to convert CO2 and water to syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and CO), which is then processed in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor to aviation kerosene.

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Stanford researchers develop copper-based catalyst that produces ethanol from CO at room temperature; potential for closed-loop CO2-to-fuel process

April 11, 2014

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a nanocrystalline copper material that produces multi-carbon oxygenates (ethanol, acetate and n-propanol) with up to 57% Faraday efficiency at modest potentials (–0.25 volts to –0.5 volts versus the reversible hydrogen electrode) in CO-saturated alkaline water.

The material’s selectivity for oxygenates, with ethanol as the major product, demonstrates the feasibility of a two-step conversion of CO2 to liquid fuel that could be powered by renewable electricity, the team suggests in their paper published in the journal Nature. Ultimately, this might enable a closed-loop, emissions free CO2-to-fuel process.

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US Navy demos recovery of CO2 and production of H2 from seawater, with conversion to liquid fuel; “Fuel from Seawater”

April 08, 2014

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division have demonstrated novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of CO2 and hydrogen from seawater and their subsequent conversion to liquid fuels. Flying a radio-controlled replica of the historic WWII P-51 Mustang red-tail aircraft (of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen), NRL researchers Dr. Jeffrey Baldwin, Dr. Dennis Hardy, Dr. Heather Willauer, and Dr. David Drab used a novel liquid hydrocarbon fuel to power the aircraft’s unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

The test provides a proof-of-concept for an NRL-developed process to extract CO2 and produce hydrogen gas from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. The potential longer term payoff for the Navy is the ability to produce fuel at or near the point of use when it is needed, thereby reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery, enhancing combat capabilities, and providing greater energy security by fixing fuel cost and its availability.

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DOE releases five-year strategic plan, 2014-2018; supporting “all of the above” energy strategy

The US Department of Energy (DOE) released its five-year 2014-2018 Strategic Plan. The plan is organized into 12 strategic objectives aimed at three distinct goals: Science and Energy; Nuclear Security; and Management and Performance. These objectives represent broad cross-cutting and collaborative efforts across DOE headquarters, site offices, and national laboratories.

The overarching goal for Science and Energy is: “Advance foundational science, innovate energy technologies, and inform data driven policies that enhance US economic growth and job creation, energy security, and environmental quality, with emphasis on implementation of the President’s Climate Action Plan to mitigate the risks of and enhance resilience against climate change.” Under that, the plan sketches out 3 strategic goals:

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MIT Energy Initiative announces 2014 seed grant awards

March 30, 2014

The MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) announced its latest round of seed grants to support early-stage innovative energy projects. A total of more than $1.6 million was awarded to 11 projects, each lasting up to two years. With this latest round, the MITEI Seed Fund Program has supported 129 early-stage research proposals, with total funding of about $15.8 million.

This year’s winners address a wide range of topics including new methods of designing and using catalysts; assessment of natural gas technologies; novel design concepts for batteries, energy harvesters, and capacitors; integrated photovoltaic–electrochemical devices to reduce CO2 for fuel production; and investigations into public opinion on various state energy policies.

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MIT researchers devise simple catalytic system for fixation and conversion of CO2

March 05, 2014

Researchers at MIT have devised a simple, soluble metal oxide system to capture and transform CO2 into useful organic compounds. More work is needed to understand and to optimize the reaction, but this approach could offer an easy and inexpensive way to recapture some of the carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles and power plants, says Christopher Cummins, an MIT professor of chemistry and leader of the research team.

The new reaction, described in an open access paper in the RSC journal Chemical Science, transforms carbon dioxide into a negatively charged carbonate ion, which can then react with a silicon compound to produce formate, a common starting material for manufacturing useful organic compounds. This process relies on the simple molecular ion molybdate: an atom of the metal molybdenum bound to four atoms of oxygen.

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New nickel-gallium catalyst could lead to low-cost, clean production of methanol; small-scale, low-pressure devices

March 03, 2014

Scientists from Stanford University, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Technical University of Denmark have identified a new nickel-gallium catalyst that converts hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methanol at ambient pressure and with fewer side-products than the conventional catalyst. The results are published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

The researchers identified the catalyst through a descriptor-based analysis of the process and the use of computational methods to identify Ni-Ga intermetallic compounds as stable candidates with good activity. After synthesizing and testing a series of catalysts, they found that Ni5Ga3 is particularly active and selective. Comparison with conventional Cu/ZnO/Al2O3 catalysts revealed the same or better methanol synthesis activity, as well as considerably lower production of CO.

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Israeli company reports successful stage 1 testing of solar CO2-to-fuels technology

January 26, 2014

Israel-based NewCO2Fuels (NCF), a subsidiary of GreenEarth Energy Limited in Australia, reported completion of stage 1 testing of its proof-of-concept system for the conversion of CO2 into fuels using solar energy. NewCO2Fuels was founded in 2011 to commercialize a technology developed by Prof. Jacob Karni’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In passing the Stage 1 testing, NCF demonstrated technology that successfully dissociates CO2 into CO and oxygen in a heating environment, simulating the industrial waste heat sources that will be used as one of two energy sources in the commercial product. Importantly, the company said, the dissociation rate of the system was increased by a factor of 200 and the cost was reduced by a factor of 34, relative to the original dissociation apparatus demonstrated in 2010 at the laboratories of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

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Stanford faculty awarded $2.2 million for innovative energy research; fuel cells, hybrids, splitting CO2

October 30, 2013

Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center and the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy have awarded 11 seed grants totaling $2.2 million to Stanford faculty for promising new research in clean technology and energy efficiency.

The seed funding supports early work on concepts that have the potential for very high impact on energy production and use. Through a competitive process, two committees of faculty and senior staff awarded the grants to Stanford researchers from a broad range of disciplines, including engineering, physics, economics, business, communication and education.

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NRL researchers optimizing two-step process for synthesis of jet-fuel-range hydrocarbons from CO2

September 09, 2013

Researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) are investigating an optimized two-step process for the synthesis of liquid hydrocarbons in the jet fuel range from CO2 and hydrogen. The process, reported in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels, could leverage a recently reported process, also developed by NRL, to recover CO2 from sea water.

CO2 is 140 times more concentrated in seawater than in air on a weight per volume basis (g/mL), the authors note. With scaling and optimization of this CO2 recovery technology already underway, NRL researchers and others are working on new and improved catalysts for the conversion of CO2to useful hydrocarbons.

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246th ACS National Meeting symposium on CO2 conversion to fuels

Converting CO2 to usable fuels was the topic of a symposium—CO2 Conversion: Thermo-, Photo- and Electro-Catalytic—on Sunday at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Indianapolis, Indiana. (ACS is the world’s largest scientific society.)

Converting CO2 into a renewable energy sources would involve capturing the gas from the smokestacks of coal-fired electric power generating stations, for instance, and processing it with catalysts or other technology into fuels and raw materials for plastics and other products.

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