Rice University’s team of materials scientists have announced the discovery of a method to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane using copper-based catalysts.
The new approach utilizes electrolysis and catalysts created by placing isolated copper atoms on two-dimensional polymer templates and offers significant advancements in both energy and sustainability. It brings in high selectivity and efficiency in the conversion.
“Electricity-driven carbon dioxide conversion can produce a large array of industrial fuels and feedstocks via different pathways. However, carbon dioxide-to-methane conversion involves an eight-step pathway that raises significant challenges for selective and energy-efficient methane production. Overcoming such issues can help close the artificial carbon cycle at meaningful scales, and the development of efficient and affordable catalysts is a key step toward achieving this goal,” explained Soumyabrata Roy, a research scientist in the Ajayan lab and the study’s lead author.
According to Mr Roy, they found that modulating the distances between the copper atoms lowered the energy needed for key reaction steps, resulting in a higher rate of selectivity and efficiency in methane production. This discovery made the approach one of the most rapid and efficient electrolysis-based methods to convert CO2 into methane known so far.
Rice University materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan and Mary Greenwood Anderson, Professor of Engineering and chair of the Department of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, added that the “design and development of novel catalysts are central to the energy and sustainability challenges we face. Single-atom dispersed catalysts present an exciting approach in this effort.”
According to the researchers, this looks like a very smart alternative to trying to pump carbon dioxide deep into the ground.