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Carbon dioxide can now be converted to plastic through new copper catalyst - TechSource International - Leaders in Technology News

Carbon dioxide can now be converted to plastic through new copper catalyst

The study has made use of a catalyst based on copper minimise methane production.
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The surface of a nanostructured copper catalyst that converts CO2 into ethylene.

The surface of a nanostructured copper catalyst that converts CO2 into ethylene.

Believe it or not, the most notorious of greenhouse gases CO2 can now be converted to plastic. Scientists, led by the University of Toronto Ted Sargent group have created a catalyst that can efficiently convert carbon dioxide to ethylene, which is used to produce the most common type of plastic.

At the heart of this work is the carbon dioxide reduction reaction, wherein CO2 is converted into other chemicals through the use of an electrical current and a chemical reaction, aided by a catalyst. Many metals can serve as catalysts in this type of reaction: gold, silver and zinc can make carbon monoxide, while tin and palladium can make formate. Only copper can produce ethylene, the core component of polyethylene plastic.

Phil De Luna (left) and Rafael Quintero-Bermudez at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon. The new study claims to have found a way of converting carbon dioxide into plastic.

Phil De Luna (left) and Rafael Quintero-Bermudez at the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon. The new study claims to have found a way of converting carbon dioxide into plastic.

Scientists were able to design a catalyst and pinpoint the ideal conditions to maximise ethylene production, while minimising the methane output to nearly nothing. Paired with carbon capture technology, this could lead to an incredibly green production mechanism for everyday plastics, meanwhile sequestering harmful greenhouse gases.

“I think the future will be filled with technologies that make value out of waste. It’s exciting because we are working towards developing new and sustainable ways to meet the energy demands of the future,” said De Luna. By identifying the precise conditions that maximise ethylene production during the reaction, it is possible to engineer a catalyst to meet those conditions.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Catalysis and is available to read here.