Scientific knowledge says catalysts expedite chemical reactions and are the fulcrum of many industrial processes. For example, in the oil industry, catalysts are essential for transforming heavy oil into jet fuel or gasoline. Today, catalysts are used in the manufacture of more than 80 percent of manufactured products.
In a research carried out by researchers at the National Argonne Laboratory of the Department of Energy in collaboration with researchers at the University of Illinois has led to the discovery of a new electrocatalyst. The electrocatalyst converts carbon dioxide and water into ethanol with very high selectivity, high efficiency for the desired final product at a low cost.
Electrocatalyst produces Ethanol for host of uses
Ethanol is particularly useful commodity as it is an ingredient in mostly all gasoline used in the U.S. Besides this, ethanol is widely used as an intermediate product in the pharmaceutical, chemical, and cosmetic industries.
Following the research, industrial processes using the new electrocatalyst would contribute to circular carbon economy, said a senior associate involved in the research. The process would do so by electrochemical conversion of CO2 released from industrial processes into useful commodities at reasonable cost. The industrial processes include alcohol fermentation plants and fossil fuel power plants.
Structurally, the new catalyst constitutes atomically dispersed copper on a carbon-powder support. Using an electrochemical reaction, the catalyst disintegrates CO2 and water molecules into ethanol in the vicinity of an external electric field.
Meanwhile, the electrocatalytic selectivity of the process is more than 90 percent, much higher than any other process reported so far. Furthermore, the catalyst operates in a stable manner for extended operations at low voltage.
With this research, a new catalytic mechanism discovered for converting water and carbon dioxide into ethanol.