Chinese Chemists Can Convert Carbon Dioxide and Hydrogen into Fuels

May 16th, 2017

The journal Nature Communications told about the breakthrough of Chinese scientists in fuel generating who have learned to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen into the hydrocarbon mixture by means of the catalyst with ferrum-based nanoparticles.

Gas, oil and coal, the drivers of rapid economic and social development of the world’s civilisation within the last two centuries, have caused serious ecological problems, in particular, the enormous carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. In view of this, a team of Chinese scientists from Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics were committed to converting carbon dioxide into fuel to reduce global warming effect and solve the problem of mineral resources depletion.

There have been several attempts to create biofuels and other chemicals from atmospheric carbon. In 2016 Chicago scientists designed solar panel able to break up CO2. Their colleagues from Oak Ridge National Laboratory created a catalyst which converts CO2 into ethanol. However, these methods have two weak points. They need to be cleaned up after a short period of operation and evolve by-products.

Chinese chemical engineers managed to solve either of these problems. A new catalyst converts all amount of CO2 into hydrocarbon which is the basic element of petrol and other high-octane fuels. Moreover, it can be operated a bit over one month and a half in average industrial conditions.

The catalyst consists of two elements – ferrous oxide and sodium compound and zeolites. Zeolites are hollow nanoparticles made from aluminium silicate widely used for water treatment. In addition, zeolites are so-called foundation matrix for various catalysts the molecules of which when placed into zeolites become more active. Every element has a particular function. Ferrum nanoparticles break up CO2 molecules and force them to join hydrogen atoms while zeolites with certain molecules inside facilitate the formation of these products into long hydrocarbon chains.

In fact, the combination of these elements enables the catalyst to work perpetually. The estimations show that after 300 hours of service its running efficiency dropped by 6% and afterwards remained stable. It means the catalyst can be operated far more than 1000 hours. The catalyst turns CO2 into 96% of petrol analogue and only 4% of methanol. It can easily produce conventional fuels from the mixture of gases heated by solar panels.