A group of researchers at Rice University in Houston have developed a reactor that turns carbon dioxide into pure formic acid.

Liquid fuel produced by CO2 could become the key component in fuel cells in hydrogen-powered vehicles.

The team of researchers at Rice University has succeeded in developing a process that uses carbon dioxide as a raw material to produce liquid fuel: the study has been published in the scientific journal Energy of nature and it promises to revolutionize areas such as fuel cells for hydrogen vehicles.

The catalytic reactor developed by the Rice University laboratory of chemical and biomolecular engineer Haotian Wang uses CO2 as a raw material and, in its latest prototype, produces very pure concentrations of formic acid.

Formic acid is a fuel that can generate electricity and emit carbon dioxide, which can be recovered and recycled again. It is also essential in the field of chemical engineering as a raw material for other products and as a hydrogen storage material that can contain almost 1000 times the energy of a same volume of hydrogen, which is difficult to compress.

Haotian Wang.

Traditional formic acid devices require complicated and expensive purification processes. Professor Wang’s team, on the other hand, was able to develop a process that produces formic acid directly, without the need for further steps.

Two advances made the new device possible: on the one hand, the development of a robust two-dimensional bismuth catalyst (a particularly heavy and stable atom) and, on the other hand, a solid-state electrolyte that eliminates the need for salt. as part of the formic acid production reaction.

In tests at Rice University, the new catalyst achieved an energy conversion efficiency of approximately 42%, generating formic acid continuously for 100 hours with negligible degradation of the reactor components, including including nanoscale catalysts.

According to Professor Wang, the reactor could also be easily designed to produce more valuable products such as acetic acid, ethanol or propanol.

More information: news.rice.edu