Making Products by Capturing Factory Carbon Emissions

Washington (GGM) Opinion | January 6, 2022, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

Converting industry greenhouse gases into valuable commercial products before the carbon dioxide reaches the air is the type of innovation that global leaders and green venture capitalists have been longing for.

Twenty percent of annual carbon emissions in the US come from American industry. In order to reach our goal of cutting carbon dioxide 50 percent by 2030, we have to cut the current 12 GtC emitted by American industry to 6 GtC in the next nine years. This breaks down to 666 million tons of carbon per year.

A scientific collaboration led by an OSU College of Science researcher, Kyriakos Stylianou, discovered a novel way to pull CO2 from smokestacks and use it to manufacture valuable chemicals that can be sold commercially. 

The newly discovered metal organic framework (MOF) can also catalyze the production of cyclic carbonates from the mix of methane, CO2 and other gases emitted from decomposing organic material.

“We’ve taken a big step toward solving a crucial challenge associated with the hoped-for circular carbon economy by developing an effective catalyst,” said Stylianou. “A key to that is understanding the molecular interactions between the active sites in MOFs with potentially reactive molecules.”

A catalyst is a medium that boosts the rate of a chemical reaction without itself changing its chemical structure. Lanthanides are malleable light metals that are used to make products such as:

  • night vision goggles
  • flints for cigarette lighters

Carbon dioxide fixates into the propylene oxide’s epoxy ring to produce cyclic carbonates. Cyclic carbonates have a wide range of applications for global industries:

  • polar solvents
  • precursors for polycarbonate materials (ie eyeglass lenses and digital discs)
  • electrolytes in lithium batteries
  • precursors for pharmaceuticals

“These are very exciting findings,” Stylianou said. “And being able to directly use carbon dioxide from impure sources saves the cost and energy of separating it before it can be used to make cyclic carbonates, which will be a boon for the green economy.”

*David Le, Ryan Loughran and Isabelle Brooks of the College of Science collaborated on this research, as did scientists from Columbia University and the University of Cambridge.

**The College of Science and the OSU Honors College funded the study.

Check back each week for new climate optimism articles featuring innovative solutions that will help solve the climate crisis.

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