CO2 conversion to Ethanol

CO2 converts into Ethanol

ORNL researchers developed a catalyst made of copper nanoparticles (seen as spheres) embedded in carbon nanospikes that can convert carbon dioxide into ethanol.

Wow, they did it. Just by coincident. Scientist of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory succeeded to convert CO2 into ethanol.

Ethanol can be used as a (car) fuel.

This is a break through!





Adam Rondinone,lead author of the team’s study published in ChemistrySelect:

“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked. We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own. Ethanol as a result of the reaction, was a big surprise.

How it works?

The team used a catalyst made of carbon, copper and nitrogen and applied voltage to trigger a complicated chemical reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process.

With the help of the nanotechnology-based catalyst, which contains multiple reaction sites, the solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water turned into ethanol with a yield of 63 percent. Typically, this type of electrochemical reaction results in a mix of several different products in small amounts.

“We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel,” Rondinone said. “Ethanol was a surprise – it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.”


The catalyst’s novelty lies in its nanoscale structure, consisting of copper nanoparticles embedded in carbon spikes. This nano-texturing approach avoids the use of expensive or rare metals such as platinum that limit the economic viability of many catalysts.

  1. By working with nanotechnology, they avoided largely undesirable side-effects. The team used very everyday commodities which is a big advantage compared to other ways to convert CO2.
  2. A second great advantage of the method is that the chain reaction succeeded at room temperatures. Therefore, there is no energy consumed for heating or cooling of the collected CO2. This makes the method even as interesting as a complement of green energy.

“A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it’s available to make and store as ethanol,” Rondinone said. “This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources.”


CO2 from the atmosphere

The researchers will continue to work on the detected process. They want to make it as efficient as possible. If they succeed, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere would be a lot easier. This could be a giant step forward to stop global warming.

Due to this invention suddenly special perspectives occur. Especially when this laboratory test could be scaled up to the real world. For example, when the gas emissions of power plants fueled by coal and gas emissions would be caught completely, it directly could be transformed into extra fuel!

More CO2 solutions from Iceland

A few months ago Iceland published great news about the stored CO2 which was injected into underground layers of basalt. The CO2 stored underground appeared to change much faster into rocks than expected. Within months.

This could eliminate the fear to store CO2 underground in depleted gas fields near the inhabited area. It should, of course, can not escape, until it has received the solid form.

Link to the study

The researchers plan to refine their approach to improve the overall production rate and further study the catalyst’s properties and behavior.

ORNL’s Yang Song, Rui Peng, Dale Hensley, Peter Bonnesen, Liangbo Liang, Zili Wu, Harry Meyer III, Miaofang Chi, Cheng Ma, Bobby Sumpter and Adam Rondinone are coauthors on the study, which is published as ‘High-Selectivity Electrochemical Conversion of CO2 to Ethanol using a Copper Nanoparticle/N-Doped Graphene Electrode‘.


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