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Chemical Recycling of Carbon Dioxide to Methanol and Dimethyl Ether: From Greenhouse Gas to Renewable, Environmentally Carbon Neutral Fuels and Synthetic Hydrocarbons

Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute and Department of Chemistry, University of Southern California, University Park, Los Angeles, California 90089-1661, USA.
The Journal of Organic Chemistry (Impact Factor: 4.64). 01/2009; 74(2):487-98. DOI: 10.1021/jo801260f
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Nature's photosynthesis uses the sun's energy with chlorophyll in plants as a catalyst to recycle carbon dioxide and water into new plant life. Only given sufficient geological time can new fossil fuels be formed naturally. In contrast, chemical recycling of carbon dioxide from natural and industrial sources as well as varied human activities or even from the air itself to methanol or dimethyl ether (DME) and their varied products can be achieved via its capture and subsequent reductive hydrogenative conversion. The present Perspective reviews this new approach and our research in the field over the last 15 years. Carbon recycling represents a significant aspect of our proposed Methanol Economy. Any available energy source (alternative energies such as solar, wind, geothermal, and atomic energy) can be used for the production of needed hydrogen and chemical conversion of CO(2). Improved new methods for the efficient reductive conversion of CO(2) to methanol and/or DME that we have developed include bireforming with methane and ways of catalytic or electrochemical conversions. Liquid methanol is preferable to highly volatile and potentially explosive hydrogen for energy storage and transportation. Together with the derived DME, they are excellent transportation fuels for internal combustion engines (ICE) and fuel cells as well as convenient starting materials for synthetic hydrocarbons and their varied products. Carbon dioxide thus can be chemically transformed from a detrimental greenhouse gas causing global warming into a valuable, renewable and inexhaustible carbon source of the future allowing environmentally neutral use of carbon fuels and derived hydrocarbon products.

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