Breakthrough in direct activation of CO2 and CH4 into liquid fuels and chemicals

Oct 15 2017


Researchers from the University of Liverpool have made a significant breakthrough in the direct conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into liquid fuels and chemicals which could help industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst producing valuable chemical feedstocks.

In a paper published in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie they report a very unique plasma synthesis process for the direct, one-step activation of carbon dioxide and methane into higher value liquid fuels and chemicals (e.g. acetic acid, methanol, ethanol and formaldehyde) with high selectivity at ambient conditions (room temperature and atmospheric pressure).

This is the first time this process has been shown, as it is a significant challenge to directly convert these two stable and inert molecules into liquid fuels or chemicals using any single-step conventional (e.g. catalysis) processes bypassing high temperature, energy intensive syngas production process and high pressure syngas processing for chemical synthesis.

The one-step room-temperature synthesis of liquid fuels and chemicals from the direct reforming of CO2 with CH4 was achieved by using a novel atmospheric-pressure non-thermal plasma reactor with a water electrode and a low energy input.

Dr. Xin Tu, from the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, said: “These results clearly show that non-thermal plasmas offer a promising solution to overcome the thermodynamic barrier for the direct transformation of CH4 and CO2 into a range of strategically important platform chemicals and synthetic fuels at ambient conditions. Introducing a catalyst into the plasma chemical process, known as plasma-catalysis, could tune the selectivity of target chemicals. ”

“This is a major breakthrough technology that has great potential to deliver a step-change in future methane activation, CO2 conversion and utilisation and chemical energy storage, which is also of huge relevance to the energy & chemical industry and could help to tackle the challenges of global warming and greenhouse gas effect.”

The highly attractive process could also provide a promising solution to end gas flaring from oil and gas wells through the conversion of flared methane into valuable liquid fuels and chemicals which can be easily stored and transported. Around 3.5% (~150 billion cubic meter gas) of the world’s natural-gas supply was wastefully burned, or ‘flared’, at oil and gas fields, emitted more than 350 million tonnes of CO2.

The paper ‘One-Step Reforming of CO2 and CH4 into High-Value Liquid Chemicals and Fuels at Room Temperature by Plasma-Driven Catalysis’ is published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition

Read the paper


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Issue 59 Sept- Oct 2017

CCS in the U.S.: Bipartisan support grows for CCS incentives to drive projects .. California extends cap & trade .. Kemper the death knell for CCS? NOT. Korea and China joint CO2 capture research project .. Japan’s big steps toward CO2-free hydroge.....


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