Chemical engineers from UNSW Sydney have grown new technology that helps convert hurtful carbon dioxide emissions into chemical building blocks to make valuable industrial products like fuel and plastics.
Furthermore, whenever approved in an industrial setting and received an enormous scale, the procedure could give the world breathing space as it changes towards a green economy.
In a paper published today in the journal Advanced Energy Materials, Dr. Rahman Daiyan and Dr. Emma Lovell from UNSW’s School of Chemical Engineering point of interest a method of making nanoparticles that promote the transformation of waste carbon dioxide into helpful industrial components.
The analysts, who did their work in the Particles and Catalysis Research Laboratory led by Scientia Professor Rose Amal, show that by making zinc oxide at high temperatures utilizing a procedure called flame spray pyrolysis (FSP), they can make nanoparticles which go about as the catalyst for transforming carbon dioxide into ‘syngas’ – a mix of hydrogen and carbon monoxide utilized in the assembling of industrial products. The analysts state this technique is less expensive and more scalable to the prerequisites of a heavy industry than what is accessible today.
“We used an open flame, which burns at 2000 degrees, to create nanoparticles of zinc oxide that can then be used to convert CO2, using electricity, into syngas,” says Dr. Lovell.
“Syngas is often considered the chemical equivalent of Lego because the two building blocks—hydrogen and carbon monoxide—can be used in different ratios to make things like synthetic diesel, methanol, alcohol or plastics, which are very important industrial precursors.
“So essentially what we’re doing is converting CO2 into these precursors that can be used to make all these vital industrial chemicals.”
In an industrial setting, an electrolyzer containing the FSP-produced zinc oxide particles could be utilized to change over the waste CO2 into useful permutations of syngas, says Dr. Daiyan.
“Waste CO2 from say, a power plant or cement factory, can be passed through this electrolyzer, and inside we have our flame-sprayed zinc oxide material in the form of an electrode. When we pass the waste CO2 in, it is processed using electricity and is released from an outlet as syngas in a mix of CO and hydrogen,” he says.
The analysts say, as a result, they are shutting the carbon loop in industrial procedures that make harmful greenhouse gases. Furthermore, by making little changes by the way the nanoparticles are burned by the FSP method, they can decide the inevitable mix of the syngas building blocks created by the carbon dioxide transformation.
“At the moment you generate syngas by using natural gas—so from fossil fuels,” Dr. Daiyan says. “But we’re using waste carbon dioxide and then converting it to syngas in a ratio depending on which industry you want to use it in.”
For instance, a one to one ratio between the carbon monoxide and hydrogen fits syngas that can be used as fuel. Be that as it may, a proportion of four sections carbon monoxide and one section hydrogen is reasonable for the production of plastics, Dr. Daiyan says.
In picking zinc oxide as their catalyst, the scientists have guaranteed that their answer has stayed a less expensive option in contrast to what has been recently endeavored in this space.
“Past attempts have used expensive materials such as palladium, but this is the first instance where a very cheap and abundant material, mined locally in Australia, has been successfully applied to the problem of waste carbon dioxide conversion,” Dr. Daiyan says.
Dr. Lovell includes that what additionally makes this strategy appealing is utilizing the FSP flame system to make and control these important materials.
“It means it can be used industrially, it can be scaled, it’s super quick to make the materials and very effective,” she says.
“We don’t need to worry about complicated synthesis techniques that use really expensive metals and precursors—we can burn it and in 10 minutes have these particles ready to go. And by controlling how we burn it, we can control those ratios of desired syngas building blocks.”
While the team has just constructed an electrolyzer that has been tested with waste CO2 gas that contains contaminants, scaling the technology up to where it could change over the entirety of the waste carbon dioxide produced by a power plant is as yet a route down the track.
“The idea is that we can take a point source of CO2, such as a coal-fired power plant, a gas power plant, or even a natural gas mine where you liberate a huge amount of pure CO2 and we can essentially retrofit this technology at the back end of these plants. Then you could capture that produced CO2 and convert it into something hugely valuable to industry,” says Dr. Lovell.
The group’s next project will be to test their nanomaterials in a flue gas setting to guarantee they are tolerant of the harsh conditions and different chemicals found in industrial waste gas.