Innovating a New Method for Green Propane Production | AIChE

Innovating a New Method for Green Propane Production


A team of researchers from the Illinois Institute of Technology has engineered a novel electrolyzer capable of converting carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, into propane, an energy-dense fuel source. The method works by electrochemically splitting CO2 molecules and reformulating them into larger propane (C3H8) molecules.

Making chemical manufacturing more renewable is really important, according to Mohammad Asadi, assistant professor of chemical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, who coauthored the study. “It’s the best way to close the carbon cycle without losing the chemicals we currently use daily,” he says.

At the center of the technology is a new catalytic system. In the new study, the catalyst minimizes the energy required to convert CO2 — a stable molecule with a high activation energy barrier — into other products by way of a reduction reaction.

Up until now, efforts to convert CO2 into other valuable chemicals and fuels have typically employed metal catalysts like copper, gold, and silver. While these methods have been effective at making single-carbon, or C1, products like carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4), they have not been able to generate multi-carbon products like propane, a molecule that contains three carbons.

The difficulty arises from the numerous chemical reactions involved in the...

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