Friday, April 13, 2012

The Methanol Economy is Coming: "Hybrid copper-gold nanoparticles convert CO2 "

This stuff is serious business.
In March we looked at George Olah, possessor of one of them Nobel things, and his work converting CO2 to methanol. (links below)
Here's another group with a different approach.
From MIT:
Copper — the stuff of pennies and tea kettles — is also one of the few metals that can turn carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon fuels with relatively little energy. When fashioned into an electrode and stimulated with voltage, copper acts as a strong catalyst, setting off an electrochemical reaction with carbon dioxide that reduces the greenhouse gas to methane or methanol.

Various researchers around the world have studied copper’s potential as an energy-efficient means of recycling carbon dioxide emissions in powerplants: Instead of being released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide would be circulated through a copper catalyst and turned into methane — which could then power the rest of the plant. Such a self-energizing system could vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired and natural-gas-powered plants.

But copper is temperamental: easily oxidized, as when an old penny turns green. As a result, the metal is unstable, which can significantly slow its reaction with carbon dioxide and produce unwanted byproducts such as carbon monoxide and formic acid.

Now researchers at MIT have come up with a solution that may further reduce the energy needed for copper to convert carbon dioxide, while also making the metal much more stable. The group has engineered tiny nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold, which is resistant to corrosion and oxidation. The researchers observed that just a touch of gold makes copper much more stable. In experiments, they coated electrodes with the hybrid nanoparticles and found that much less energy was needed for these engineered nanoparticles to react with carbon dioxide, compared to nanoparticles of pure copper.

A paper detailing the results will appear in the journal Chemical Communications; the research was funded by the National Science Foundation. Co-author Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli of MIT says the findings point to a potentially energy-efficient means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from powerplants.

“You normally have to put a lot of energy into converting carbon dioxide into something useful,” says Hamad-Schifferli, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and biological engineering. “We demonstrated hybrid copper-gold nanoparticles are much more stable, and have the potential to lower the energy you need for the reaction."...MORE 
From last month's "With Current Natural Gas Prices The Methanol Economy is Coming":
...In "Possibly Major Materials Science Breakthrough: '"Carbon Dioxide Super Scrubber?"' I used my usual approach to writing, assuming the reader is smarter than I am, and let them figure it out by asking "Why is a Nobel Laureate (Chemistry) fooling around with this stuff?"

After posting I realized that the focus of the piece from Nature was too much on the CO2, too little on the Methanol.
So in "Natural Gas: Buy the Chemical Companies that Use the Stuff (HUN; MEOH)" I decided to be a bit less circumspect:

Hey, if they use natgas as a feedstock and the price of the feedstock is cut in half...
And that's as close to hitting folks over the head as I get.