Science

Carbon capture concerns

In the bid to reduce global warming, many governments are attempting to limit the amount of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) being emitted into the atmosphere. However, some say that this alone will not be enough, insisting instead that we need to target the production of CO2 at its source.

There are various solutions available in order to remove carbon dioxide from the emissions of fossil fuel power stations, including Carbon Capture and Storage. New research from Korea now shows that this ‘caught’ CO2 can be directly taken from the emissions and reformed into new chemicals.

Carbon Capture and Storage captures the carbon dioxide from exhaust gas streams, often through nitrogen-containing amines, and then compressing it for storage in geological areas such as drained oil fields. This compressed gas can also be used as a raw material in chemical factories, most often as a chemical feedstock in the formation of urea.

Carbon dioxide capture is possible in trees and some microbes, which can then be incorporated it into more complex chemicals. Scientists have attempted to synthetically replicate this process, but with limited success.

Dr Soon Hong and colleagues from the Institute of Basic Science in South Korea have recently found a way to capture carbon dioxide and incorporates it into useful chemicals.

The research, published in Angewandte Chemie outlines how the captured gas can be turned into useful products. This includes alkynyl carboxylic acid, with uses such as making food additives and cyclic carbonate, which is used to make polymers or as a starting material for a wide variety of useful products.

Just like in carbon capture and storage, the exhaust fumes are passed through a solution, capturing the carbon dioxide whilst letting other gases pass. Heat is applied to the salt product which results in the pure carbon dioxide that can be used in chemical reactions. Hong can then recycle the solution at least 55 times without a loss in yield.

Researchers from University of Rostock, Germany, have also recently published a paper in Nature Communications, outlining another new reaction that can use this CO2 called alkene carbonylation. This reaction usually involves the toxic carbon monoxide, but in this instance, carbon dioxide is instead used to form the carbon-oxygen bond required in the synthesis of carboxylic acids.

This is much safer than previous synthesis methods involving CO2, all of which involved the use of a flammable zinc compound. This means that scientists can now synthesise these useful chemicals, found in everyday objects such as varnish and paints, with less risk. This puts an increased importance on carbon dioxide’s use in the chemical industry.

Daniel Di Francesco

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