Surrey University researchers are embarking on a project to use direct air capture to make new chemicals for fuel and other products.
The project aims to capture CO2 directly from the air and use dynamic catalysis to create carbon-negative methanol whose value could offset the cost of direct air capture.
EPSRC has awarded the project £250,000 under its Adventurous energy research for a sustainable net zero scheme.
In a statement, Dr. Melis Duyar, Surrey University project leader, said: “Synthesizing methanol would represent significant progress, by linking a currently expensive but necessary method of capturing CO2 from the air with the production of a substance that could generate some revenue. offset costs and further stimulate the upscaling of direct air capture.
“The main challenge for our project will be to reconcile the fact that commercial methanol synthesis takes place under high pressure [50-100 bar] and moderate temperatures [200-300oC], while direct air capture is usually performed in ambient conditions. We want to show that it is possible to produce methanol under mild conditions by means of dynamic catalysis.”
If successful, the Surrey team will expand their project to show that it is possible to synthesize other chemicals with negative carbon footprints, including sustainable manure.
“Bringing chemical building blocks directly from the air can create a ‘just in time’ process that helps us finally say goodbye to safety risks such as storing large amounts of chemicals,” says Dr Duyar. “Importantly, this process could boost the economy by driving carbon negative growth and provide the UK with fuel security.”
The International Energy Agency has identified direct air capture and storage as one of the top three opportunities to achieve net zero and methanol production using hydrogen and CO2 as a key innovation gap.
According to Surrey University, a key advantage of direct air capture technology is that it does not rely on extensive land and water use, unlike alternatives such as biomass.