March 18, 2007
Catalyst Emulates Plant Photosynthesis Step

Some German scientists have developed a method that emulates the first step plants use to convert carbon from carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon.

"Breaking open the very stable bonds in CO2 is one of the biggest challenges in synthetic chemistry," says Frederic Goettmann, a chemist at the Max Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam, Germany. "But plants have been doing it for millions of years."

Synthetic emulation of plant photosynthesis could some day produce gasoline or other liquid hydrocarbons for transportation and also for use in the chemical industry to make plastics and synthetic fibers for textiles.

In an attempt to emulate this natural process, Goettmann and colleagues Arne Thomas and Markus Antonietti developed their own nitrogen-based catalyst that can produce carbamates. The graphite-like compound is made from flat layers of carbon and nitrogen atoms arranged in hexagons.

I'd love to see a catalyst like this integrated with photovoltaics. Imagine a dynamically configurable system that could send the electricity out to meet immediate demand when electric demand is high but which switches to making, say, gasoline when demand for electricity is low.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 March 18 08:25 PM  Energy Biomass


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