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CO2 conversion offers new opportunities thanks to EU-funded project

As the EU-funded ELCAT ('Electrocatalytic gas-phase conversion of CO2 in confined catalysts') project draws to
a close, project partners took stock at a final meeting in Brussels: They agreed that the project had proven the
feasibility of gas-phase CO2 conversion in a catalyti...
As the EU-funde d ELCAT ('Ele ctrocatalytic gas -phas e conve rs ion of CO2 in confine d
catalys ts ') proje ct draws to a clos e , proje ct partne rs took s tock at a final me e ting in
Brus s e ls : The y agre e d that the proje ct had prove n the fe as ibility of gas -phas e CO2
conve rs ion in a catalytic proce s s that re cycle s carbon dioxide into liquid
hydrocarbons and alcohols . Howe ve r, more work is ne e de d be fore the te chnology
can be put into ope ration, the y s aid.
The ide a be hind the ELCAT proje ct, which re ce ive d around 85,000 in funding
unde r the Ne w and e me rging s cie nce and te chnologie s (NEST) the me of the Sixth
Frame work Programme (FP6), was born whe n re s e arche rs at the Unive rs ity of
Me s s ina, Italy, obs e rve d an e le ctrocatalytic re action which could be carrie d out at
room te mpe rature and atmos phe ric pre s s ure : With carbon dioxide confine d ins ide
carbon micropore s , and e le ctrons and protons flowing to an active catalys t - noble me tal nanoclus te rs - gas e ous carbon dioxide was re duce d to a s e rie s of
hydrocarbons and alcohols .
The products of the re action we re s urpris ingly s imilar to thos e of the Fis che r-Trops ch (FT) proce s s , a catalys e d
che mical re action in which carbon monoxide and hydroge n are conve rte d to a s e rie s of hydrocarbons . The FT proce s s
has be e n dis cus s e d as a pos s ible s ource of fue ls and raw mate rials for s ome time now.
A proce s s that could ge ne rate FT-like products in us e ful quantitie s - an outcome that cannot be achie ve d without s ome
difficulty in the FT proce s s - at room te mpe rature and atmos phe ric pre s s ure could he lp to cons ide rably re duce carbon
dioxide and at the s ame time ge ne rate ne w raw mate rials . Howe ve r, this catalytic re action cre ate d ne w proble ms ,
name ly a quick de activation of the catalys t and poor productivity. In addition, it is a cas e of gas -phas e e le ctrocatalys is , a
phe nome non which has bare ly be e n s tudie d by s cie ntis ts , as the focus has traditionally be e n on the liquid phas e .
While this s hift from liquid to gas can he lp to bypas s proble ms s uch as limite d diffus ion and productivity, the ELCAT
s cie ntis ts had to cope with ne w challe nge s , the forme r proje ct coordinator, Gabrie le Ce nti of the Unive rs ity of Me s s ina
e xplaine d to CORDIS Ne ws : 'You ne e d to change the type of s tructure , of e le ctrode be caus e of the change of the
conditions ', but this ope ne d up ne w ways to improve the pe rformance and othe r opportunitie s s uch as the production of
hydroge n by controlle d hydrolys is of the s ys te m. Furthe rmore , 'in gas -phas e e le ctrocatalys is , the re are bas ically no
limits to te mpe rature ,' Mr Ce nti adde d. 'In the liquid phas e , the re are , or you ne e d to work unde r pre s s ure which is an
additional cos t. So you ope n re ally ne w pos s ibilitie s if you go to gas phas e .'
Ove r the pas t thre e and a half ye ars , the ELCAT re s e arch has focus e d on the s e proble ms as we ll as the production of
s uitable carbon nanotube s . The proje ct partne rs are de te rmine d to continue the ir work, e ve n though the ELCAT proje ct
its e lf will come to an e nd at the e nd of Fe bruary. According to the ir e s timate s , e le ctrocatalytic gas -phas e conve rs ion of
CO2 could be re ady for application in about 10 ye ars , and could he lp to cut global CO2 e mis s ions by 5%, comple me nting
othe r s trate gie s .
'Carbon s torage has its limitations be caus e the re are s pace limitations and in this cas e , we try to conve rt this
gre e nhous e gas dire ctly to fue l,' s aid Siglinda Pe rathone r of the Unive rs ity of Me s s ina, who is curre ntly in charge of
ELCAT proje ct coordination. 'The re fore , it's comple me ntary. But I think it's much be tte r to conve rt than to s tore .'
Mr Ce nti and Ms Pe rathone r hope that now, afte r the ir proje ct has prove n the te chnology's fe as ibility, othe rs will jump
on the bandwagon and he lp it to advance more quickly. The indus try is s ure ly s tarting to take an inte re s t, Mr Ce nti
s tate d. 'Up to now, the y have only s e e n this proble m of carbon dioxide as a ne gative cos t, but now if the y s tart s e e ing
it as a raw mate rial, the y s tart to be inte re s te d,' he s aid. 'The pos s ibility to conve rt it to che micals which can be
introduce d into all che mical cycle s or which can be us e d as fue l ope ns up re ally ne w pe rs pe ctive s .'
Othe rs have als o notice d the proje ct, it s e e ms , as it has be e n e nte re d in a compe tition for ne w s olutions for
gre e nhous e gas e mis s ion calle d 'The 25 million dollar ide a' s e t up by the forme r US Vice Pre s ide nt and Nobe l Pe ace
Priz e laure ate Al Gore , toge the r with Britis h e ntre pre ne ur Richard Brans on. 'I think the re are othe r proje cts that are
clos e r to application,' Mr Ce nti s aid. 'I think the re s till is a lot of work to do. But it is inte re s ting that othe r pe ople be lie ve
that this is s ome thing that s hould be on that lis t.'
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Proje ct partne rs are ce rtainly s atis fie d with the outcome of the proje ct and s o is Dr Monique Smaihi of the Europe an
Commis s ion Dire ctorate Ge ne ral for Re s e arch, s cie ntific office r in charge of the ELCAT proje ct. The partne rs had to
s tart the ir re s e arch from s cratch and e ncounte re d many proble ms that could not be fore s e e n, s he s aid. The re was s till
s ome progre s s to be made be caus e e ve rything was not s olve d, but the re s ults - particularly with a vie w to the
ve rs atility of the te chnology - we re ve ry promis ing,' s he conclude d.
Source: CORDIS Ne ws atte ndance at the final ELCAT me e ting

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Programmes

FP6-NEST

Subjects
Climate change and Carbon cycle re s e arch - Coordination and Coope ration - Environme ntal Prote ction - Indus trial
Manufacture - Othe r Ene rgy Topics - Scie ntific Re s e arch - Was te Manage me nt
Last updat ed o n 2008-02-19
Cate gory: Othe r
Provide r: EC
Ret rieved o n 2016-05-08
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