Selective CO2 reduction to C3 and C4 oxhydrocarbons on nickel phosphides at overpotentials as low as
Selective CO2 reduction to C3 and C4 oxhydrocarbons on nickel
phosphides at overpotentials as low as 10 mV, Calvinho, Karin et al.
This is a very interesting paper that describes the efficient production of higher molecular carbon compounds by the electro-catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide. Previous work with copper catalysts was hampered by the predominant competing production of hydrogen and the low molecular weight of the resulting carbon products due to the non-selectivity of the reactions and the high overvoltage required.
The significance of this development is two-fold.
First, it provides an efficient pathway to the production of valuable chemical intermediates like 2,3 furandiol & methylglyoxal. It's not hard to imagine how to couple this process directly to solar electric production for seamless production of valuable chemical intermediates or even liquid fuels completely bypassing the need for petroleum or natural gas.
Second, and more importantly for corn farmers is that it's no secret that the production of ethanol results in half the carbon content 0f the carbohydrate feedstock being converted into high concentration, high purity carbon dioxide, exactly the feedstock this electrochemical reduction needs. Making concentrated carbon dioxide from air is a fairly energy-intensive process involving a lot of compression and refrigeration. Again, it's not hard to imagine how to couple ethanol production with carbon dioxide reduction and essentially double the value of the products. Actually, the added value would be far more given that the chemical intermediates are far more valuable as chemicals than the ethanol itself.
Third, and maybe most importantly, you make the carbon footprint of corn farming vanish, even less than zero. Corn farmers and the downstream manufacturers should be able to sell the carbon sequestration.