Research conducted by a University of Pittsburgh team has created a method for designing a catalyst that could result in the large-scale implementation of carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and conversion.
The discovery, published in Catalysis Science & Technology, promises two benefits: an economically feasible method to reduce atmospheric CO2 and production of methanol. These results are built on previous research on catalysts conducted by team lead Karl Johnson and postdoctoral researcher Jingyun Ye.
Existing technologies for capturing carbon and converting it to methanol can be a complex and expensive process. A common method for converting CO2 to methanol requires cracking the bonds in CO2, removing an oxygen atom, and combining the remaining CO with water.
The strength of the bonds in CO2 requires the steady application of very high heat, up to 1000 degrees Celsius. Johnson’s team aims to simplify the process by designing a catalyst capable of breaking the bond at much lower temperatures.
The team worked to design a catalyst using metal organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs could enable a single process for capturing CO2 and converting it to methanol. Johnson and Ye relied on computation for compound simulation, which eliminates dead ends and facilitates progress faster than traditional research methods.
Development of a new MOF catalyst can lead to a sustainable CO2 sequestration and conversion process. According to Johnson, “This new MOF catalyst could provide the key to close the carbon loop and generate fuel from CO2, analogously to how a plant converts carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons.”