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Molecules of CO2 are very stable, so processes that convert the gas to methanol normally require high temperatures and pressure. They also use catalysts containing toxic metal ions. "Our catalyst isn't toxic, and the reaction happens rapidly at room temperature," says team leader Jackie Ying.

The catalyst used by Ying's team is a type of chemical called an N-heterocyclic carbene (NHC). The mechanism by which the NHC speeds up the conversion is uncertain, but it appears to change the shape of the CO2 molecule, "activating" it in a way that makes it easier for hydrogen to bond with its carbon atom, says team member Yugen Zhang.

The catalyst may also help to release hydrogen from hydrosilane molecules, which are the source of hydrogen in the new process. Hydrosilane is an expensive chemical usually used to make computer chips, so the team wants to find a cheaper source.

"Potentially, it's a means for taking carbon dioxide out of the air and making it into something useful," says Dongke Zhang, director of the Centre for Petroleum, Fuels and Energy at the University of Western Australia in Perth. As well as being a fuel, methanol can be used as a feedstock for the chemical industry.Zhang's team is developing a technique for converting CO2 into methanol using high-frequency electromagnetic fields or plasmas to activate the gas.

1 comments

Puspita Wulandari said... @ 19 May 2009 at 04:32

Salam kenal, bagi-bagi bunganya dong.

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