• 9 minutes WTI @ 67.50, charts show $62.50 next
  • 11 minutes The EU Loses The Principles On Which It Was Built
  • 19 minutes Batteries Could Be a Small Dotcom-Style Bubble
  • 7 mins Saudi Fund Wants to Take Tesla Private?
  • 4 hours Permian already crested the productivity bell curve - downward now to Tier 2 geological locations
  • 1 min Downloadable 3D Printed Gun Designs, Yay or Nay?
  • 1 hour Desperate Call or... Erdogan Says Turkey Will Boycott U.S. Electronics
  • 7 hours Saudi PIF In Talks To Invest In Tesla Rival Lucid
  • 5 hours CO2 Emissions Hit 67-Year Low In USA, As Rest-Of-World Rises
  • 16 hours How To Explain 'Truth Isn't Truth' Comment of Rudy Giuliani?
  • 14 hours Starvation, horror in Venezuela
  • 12 hours Corporations Are Buying More Renewables Than Ever
  • 17 hours Is NAFTA dead? Or near breakthrough?
  • 18 hours China still to keep Iran oil flowing amid U.S. sanctions
  • 17 hours Are Trump's steel tariffs working? Seems they are!
  • 8 hours Film on Venezuela's staggering collapse
Alt Text

Southern Company Just Raised Cost Estimates For This Megaproject Again

Southern Company's subsidiary announced yet…

Alt Text

Why Mexico’s Oil Production Could Fall Even Further

Mexico’s oil production has fallen…

Alt Text

What Happens To Syrian Oil Post-Civil War?

After years of conflict in…

Futurity

Futurity

Futurity covers research news from the top universities in the US, UK, Canada and Australia

More Info

Trending Discussions

Using CO2 to Create Polyester Fabrics

Chemists have identified a cheaper and more sustainable method for producing acrylate, a chemical used to make materials from polyester fabrics to diapers.

Chemical companies churn out billions of tons of acrylate each year, usually by heating propylene, a compound derived from crude oil.

“What we’re interested in is enhancing both the economics and the sustainability of how acrylate is made,” says Wesley Bernskoetter, assistant professor of chemistry at Brown University, who led the research. “Right now, everything that goes into making it is from relatively expensive, nonrenewable carbon sources.”

Since the 1980s researchers have been looking into the possibility of making acrylate by combining carbon dioxide with a gas called ethylene in the presence of nickel and other metal catalysts. CO2 is essentially free and something the planet has in overabundance. Ethylene is cheaper than propylene and can be made from plant biomass.

Related article: EU Caught Playing Dirty and it’s all about Russian Gas

There has been a persistent obstacle to the approach, however. Instead of forming the acrylate molecule, CO2 and ethylene tend to form a precursor molecule with a five-membered ring made of oxygen, nickel, and three carbon atoms. In order to finish the conversion to acrylate, that ring needs to be cracked open to allow the formation of a carbon-carbon double bond, a process called elimination.

That step had proved elusive. But the research by Bernskoetter and his colleagues, published in the journal Organometallics, shows that a class of chemicals called Lewis acids can easily break open that five-membered ring, allowing the molecule to eliminate and form acrylate.

Lewis acids are basically electron acceptors. In this case, the acid steals away electrons that make up the bond between nickel and oxygen in the ring. That weakens the bond and opens the ring.

“We thought that if we could find a way to cut the ring chemically, then we would be able to eliminate very quickly and form acrylate,” Bernskoetter says. “And that turns out to be true.”

He calls the finding an “enabling technology” that could eventually be incorporated in a full catalytic process for making acrylate on a mass scale. “We can now basically do all the steps required,” he says.

From here, the team needs to tweak the strength of the Lewis acid used. To prove the concept, they used the strongest acid that was easily available, one derived from boron. But that acid is too strong to use in a repeatable catalytic process because it bonds too strongly to the acrylate product to allow additional reactions with the nickel catalyst.

Related article: Calculating the True Carbon Footprint of a Renewable Energy Grid

“In developing and testing the idea, we hit it with the biggest hammer we could,” Bernskoetter says. “So what we have to do now is dial back and find one that makes it more practical.”

There’s quite a spectrum of Lewis acid strengths, so Bernskoetter is confident that there’s one that will work. “We think it’s possible,” he says. “Organic chemists do this kind of reaction with Lewis acids all the time.”

“It’s around a $2 billion-a-year industry,” Bernskoetter says. “If we can find a way to make acrylate more cheaply, we think the industry will be interested.”

The National Science Foundation’s Centers for Chemical Innovation program supported the study.

By. Kevin Stacey




Back to homepage

Trending Discussions


Leave a comment
  • Alan on March 27 2013 said:
    If CO2 is used for a process, then presumably the carbon will need to be separated from the oxygen. Doing that must require at least as much energy as was released when the atoms were combined at some time in the past.
    Creating bonds releases energy, breaking bonds absorbs energy.

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News