This is the promise of the fundamental discovery made in a laboratory of the Paris-Diderot University. An iron-based catalyst allows the molecule of CO 2 , dissolved in a liquid, to gradually lose its oxygen atoms which are then replaced by hydrogen atoms to form methane.
BIOMIMICRY. The article that appears this Monday July 17, 2017 in Nature has everything to excite. His co-authors Heng Rao, Luciana C. Schmidt, Julien Bonin and Marc Robert of the Molecular Electrochemistry Laboratory at the Paris-Diderot-Sorbonne University Paris-Cité demonstrate how, with no input of energy other than solar light, And ambient temperature, the molecule of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) undergoes a radical transformation to give methane (CH 4 ).
“ This is fundamental research, but what we have highlighted is promising ,“ explained Julien Bonin and Marc Robert. We have developed a multi-component liquid system in which dissolved CO 2 gradually transforms into methane through sunlight and an iron-based molecule that accelerates the reaction. „This discovery borrows a great deal from biomimicry since the researchers admit to have been inspired by the role of iron as a constituent of the hemoglobin allowing the red blood cells to transport the oxygen in the blood.
A discovery that paves the way for recycling CO 2
We know that CO 2 is particularly inert and refractory to any transformation. Here, however, it separates from its oxygen atoms to take hydrogen atoms. „These are present in the solution in the form of small amounts of water (H 2 O) but can also be derived from an amine, a chemical compound that intervenes here as a cocatalyst, “ Julien Bonin and Marc Robert continued. The process is still far from being understood to its smallest details. The researchers were able to describe the first step in the process, where CO 2 loses an oxygen atom to form carbon monoxide (CO).
„Our work will now include understanding how the second carbon-oxygen bond is broken and how four carbon atoms bond to carbon, “ researchers say. It is only on the basis of a thorough knowledge of the phenomena involved that one can hope to control and realize on a larger scale a reaction which is currently taking place in the equivalent of a water glass.
Despite everything, this research has the potential to start of a new energy story, the zero point of a revolution in how to design fuels. We can now dream of a circular economy on a large scale. CO 2 is indeed a greenhouse gas emitted in large quantities by human activities and at the origin of the warming climate in progress. Its industrial uses are limited, but if tomorrow it was to serve as a basis for the manufacture of gas usable both in industry and in transport, then an ideal recycling circuit would be set up . The CO 2 emitted by the CH 4 consumed in the engines would thus be reused to make fuel.