How to use greenhouse gases
to our advantage
by Katerina Bopota
It is no secret that our planet is in danger. We’ve been over this. Again and again.
It is self – evident that we need to utilise our resources, power, tools and education as individuals and as groups and act towards our environmental survival.
A research group from the University of Surrey, led by our very own Dr Kelly Kousi, has secured a couple of grants with the support of The Henry Royce Institute and the Royal Society of Chemistry, to work on materials development making our survival on planet Earth, in the long term, possible. They employ a novel synthesis method that promises to produce catalysts with high activity and selectivity in a single step! Let’s dive into the more technical part of it, and see Kelly’s view on the project.
‘We consume a lot; food, clothes, traveling. And this results inevitably in more and more emissions. Mainly of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of the primary culprits of the greenhouse effect that causes our planet to warm up.
All governments have pledged to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, significantly cutting back on emissions by 2035. However, currently, ~90% of our energy supply is dependent on fossil fuels resulting in additional emissions. To decarbonise our energy supply and reach net zero, we need to find a solution. Immediately! Can we utilise the CO2 being emitted? Indeed we can. Using hydrogen to convert the excess CO2, for the sustainable synthesis of chemical feedstocks, including methanol, and higher hydrocarbons, could result in 90% drop in CO2 emissions making this process an exciting future prospect towards our salvation !
Methanol is an important and highly versatile chemical used to produce hundreds of every-day products. From plywood, paint, and adhesives to clothing and pharmaceuticals, it improves our quality of life. It is also a cleaner-burning and safe alternative to conventional fuels and a potential enabler for decarbonisation  with the UK spending roughly £150M to import it yearly. However, currently, on an industrial scale, methanol is predominantly produced from the conversion of natural gas which puts an additional emission penalty. The use of CO2 as a feedstock to produce it in a catalytic process is realistic but is currently hindered by selectivity and stability of the catalysts used in the process .
We are very excited to work on this project. Preliminary results show that already this method can result in making much more efficient materials and control them with precision in order to produce a new, palpable strategy to save our planet!’
We are all thrilled to see the results; Stay tuned!
Sources:  https://finance.yahoo.com/news/eco-warriors-rejoice-methanol-market-155000863.html,  https://matthey.com/products-and-markets/chemicals/methanol,  https://www.nature.com/articles/s41570-021-00289-y
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