Scientists at Oregon State University have come up with a new way to ‘harvest’ CO2 emissions from smokestacks and use it to make various useful products.
The process is made possible thanks to the creation of a novel compound – a metal organic framework that is made up of a very common industrial chemical known as propylene oxide.
With its help, researchers can catalyze the production of so-called cyclic carbonates during the process of collecting carbon dioxide from factory flue gases.
Cyclic carbonates are commercially valuable compounds that have a broad range of applications in industry.
For instance, they are commonly used as polar solvents, electrolytes in lithium batteries and also as precursors for many pharmaceuticals.
The study was led by OSU College of Science chemistry researcher Kyriakos Stylianou and according to him, these findings will eliminate the need to harvest CO2 from impure sources before it can be used to produce cyclic carbonates.
Hence, they will reduce costs and energy use, which will strongly benefit the transition to a green economy.
In addition to smokestacks, the new metal organic framework (MOF) is also capable of catalyzing cyclic carbonate production from biogas, which is a mixture of gases including CO2 and methane that results from the decomposition of organic matter.
Stylianou characterized the breakthrough discovery as a ‘big step toward solving a crucial challenge’ that has been in the way of creating a circular carbon economy.
MOFs are versatile in nature as they can be made using various components that determine their properties.
According to Stylianou, MOFs based on lanthanide are considered more stable due to the larger size of the lanthanide ions.
This makes lanthanide MOFs resistant to water and high temperatures, which, in turn, makes them ideal for use in flue gases and biogas, both of which are rich in moisture and very hot.
Furthermore, lanthanide MOFs are selective for CO2, so the presence of other gases in biogas and industrial emissions does not bother them.