UK Researchers: Sunlight and Copper Add Up to Green Methanol

March 28, 2024
Researchers produced methanol instead of methane after adding a small amount of copper to nanocrystalline carbon nitride.

UK researchers think they have a recipe for greener methanol production. It involves shining sunlight onto single copper atoms deposited on a light-activated material.

The international team includes scientists from the University of Nottingham's School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham, University of Queensland and University of Ulm.

The researchers say they have developed a new form of carbon nitride with crystalline nanoscale domains that allow efficient interaction with light and sufficient charge separation.

They were able to produce methanol instead of methane, a greenhouse gas, after adding a small amount of copper to the nanocrystalline carbon nitride, which is already 44 times more active than traditional carbon nitride. 

The nanocrystalline structure allows electrons to move from carbon nitride to CO2, an essential step in the production of methanol from CO2 under the influence of solar irradiation. 

The process involved heating carbon nitride to crystallinity, which maximized the functional properties of the material for photocatalysis. Using magnetron sputtering, the researchers deposited atomic copper in a solventless process. This allows for close contact between the semiconductor and metal atoms.

The research has been published in the Sustainable Energy & Fuels Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Executive Editor

Jonathan Katz, executive editor, brings nearly two decades of experience as a B2B journalist to Chemical Processing magazine. He has expertise on a wide range of industrial topics. Jon previously served as the managing editor for IndustryWeek magazine and, most recently, as a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for the manufacturing sector.

His knowledge areas include industrial safety, environmental compliance/sustainability, lean manufacturing/continuous improvement, Industry 4.0/automation and many other topics of interest to the Chemical Processing audience.

When he’s not working, Jon enjoys fishing, hiking and music, including a small but growing vinyl collection.

Jon resides in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

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