Innovation That Matters

| Photo source Fraunhofer IMM

Using nanodiamonds to turn greenhouse gas into materials for industry


A team of researchers are using nanodiamonds as a catalyst to turn CO2 into raw materials for industrial processes

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Spotted: Excessive carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is already having a huge impact on the planet and accelerating global warming, so what if this greenhouse gas could be put to good use? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Microengineering and Microsystems (IMM) are using nanodiamonds to turn carbon dioxide into industrially relevant raw materials, including formic acid and methanol.

The team are using nanodiamonds as an environmentally friendly photocatalyst. These nanodiamonds are irradiated with shortwave UV-C light in an aqueous environment to convert CO2 into formic acid. The diamonds used are detonation diamonds, which are produced on an industrial scale and consist of carbon.

Experiments testing the technology were carried out in a stirred flask, which meant that there were issues like inadequate contact with the catalyst between the gas and liquid phase. To offset this issue, the team are now using reaction plates to apply the catalyst to large areas, so that more carbon dioxide directly contacts the catalyst film, resulting in higher CO2 conversion. The researchers are also no longer relying on energy-intensive UV-C light but instead have started using visible light.

The CO2, water, and diamond layer currently only have 10 to 15 seconds for the reaction, which is not enough time to produce the amount of formic acid required for real-world applications. To fix this, the researchers are exploring more efficient metal complexes to increase reaction speed while adapting the reactor to promote longer contact times.

Turning harmful carbon emissions into useful products is becoming increasingly appealing given the growing pressure to reach net zero. Springwise has spotted a team developing a new method for converting carbon dioxide into jet fuel, and transforming carbon into water treatment chemicals.

Written By: Anam Alam



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