Researchers from the University of Liverpool report a significant breakthrough in the direct conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into liquid fuels and chemicals that could help industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while producing valuable chemical feedstocks. In a paper published in chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie, they report a 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 reportedly 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, according to the university. 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.
“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,” says Dr. Xin Tu, from the university’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics. “Introducing a catalyst into the plasma chemical process, known as plasma-catalysis, could tune the selectivity of target chemicals.”
He continues, “This is a major breakthrough technology that has great potential to deliver a step-change in future methane activation, CO2 conversion and utilization and chemical energy storage, which is also of huge relevance to the energy and chemical industry and could help to tackle the challenges of global warming and greenhouse gas effect.”
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