Researchers from Melbourne's Monash University and Japan's Hokkaido University have developed a method that converts carbon dioxide into a diesel-range fuel and has the potential to produce a net-zero liquid fuel alternative to power cars more sustainably.
When carbon dioxide (CO2) is added to the manufacturing process of fuel production, it has the capability to produce fuels that reduce or reverse the net CO2 emissions.
When the hydrogen required for this process is supplied via solar powered water electrolysis, the entire process becomes completely renewable.
The end result is a net-zero carbon emitting fuel product.
The research, which was recently published in the Journal of Energy Chemistry, offers a diesel-range fuel alternative which has the capability to be applied anywhere in the world.
Associate Professor Akshat Tanksale, from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Monash University, says OME (oxymethylene ethers), are among a number of fuel alternatives that are attracting increasing attention for their net-zero carbon emitting properties.
Dimethoxymethane (DMM), which is a diesel blend fuel and the simplest form of an OME, is currently being researched with high interest due to its unique fuel properties.
Commercially, it can be produced via a two step-process of methanol oxidation to make formaldehyde, followed by coupling with methanol.
However, currently both methanol and formaldehyde are produced from natural gas.
In the method developed by Monash, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methanol are used as a feedstock for producing DMM in a single reactor.
The team developed a novel catalyst based on ruthenium nanoparticles which make this reaction possible.
An added advantage is that this reaction takes place at much lower temperatures than conventional methanol and formaldehyde production methods, making it significantly more energy efficient.
Monash engineers are also working on a methanol synthesis method from carbon dioxide and hydrogen, closing the carbon loop to renewables only.
The project has recently received funding for further research into the industrialisation and scale-up of this state-of-the-art catalyst and process by the Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), India.