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Could Your Car Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?

July 3, 2013
New technology creates low-emissions fuel from carbon dioxide.

A new low-waste process developed by researchers at Université Laval in Quebec City converts carbon dioxide into methanol, which can be used as a low-emissions fuel for vehicles.

Detailed in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the process is inspired by methanol combustion, which produces carbon dioxide and water. The team successfully developed a catalyst made of borane and phosphine that would produce the opposite reaction.

"Unlike most catalysts developed thus far to convert CO2 into methanol, ours contains no metal, which reduces both the costs and toxic hazard of the catalyst," says Professor Frédéric-Georges Fontaine,  the chemistry professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering who led the research team.

The highly effective approach will require further study before it becomes commercially viable, however.

"Our approach to creating methanol is highly effective from a chemistry standpoint, but for now the process is expensive," Fontaine says. "It takes a lot of energy to synthesize hydroborane, which makes it more expensive than methanol. We are working on ways to make the process more profitable by optimizing the reaction and exploring other hydrogen sources."

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