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New method to process methanol may cut Co2 emissions
19
Nov '14
US researchers have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, that would also reduce carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions.

Methanol, which is a product of natural gas, is well-known as a common feedstock chemical, one that is processed into gasoline and other chemicals such as solvents, adhesives, paints and plastics.

Using current methods, the process requires high temperatures, high pressures, expensive catalysts, which results in the release of the greenhouse Co2 gas into the atmosphere.

Process of the researchers at UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, synthesises longer-chain molecules like butanol, which can be used for automobile fuel, under room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressures.

The second advantage is that this process is carbon efficient which means that no carbon is lost in this process as no Co2 is released.

“That’s the beautiful part of this process as it completely conserves the carbon. The current dogma has been to find better uses of plant-derived sugars. However, methanol offers many advantages and its availability is expected to increase,” Igor Bogorad, a UCLA Ph.D. student said.

Building off the success from their previous work published in Nature, the researchers modified the non-oxidative glycolysis pathway to utilize methanol instead of sugar. The new process, a biocatalytic pathway, is called “methanol condensation cycle.

They demonstrated this process using a set of purified enzymes and were able to synthesize ethanol and butanol from methanol.

While this research addresses a major step in converting methanol to liquid fuels, another major challenge remains in the conversion of methane, a major component in natural gas to methanol.

“The boom in natural gas in North America has been a game-changer in the energy and chemical industry, however challenges include how to make natural gas processing more efficient and reduce emissions,” James Liao, UCLA’s Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Chair in Chemical Engineering said.

“Our new process offers solutions to one major step of those challenges,” he added by saying. (AR)

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