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CO2 Could Produce Valuable Chemical Cheaply

March 21, 2013
A possible use for excess carbon

 In the presence of nickel and other metal catalysts, CO2 and ethylene gas form an acrylate precursor configured in a five-membered ring. The challenge has been to crack that ring open, allowing a carbon-carbon double bond to form, creating acrylate. Lewis acids do the trick. Credit: Berkskoetter lab/Brown University

Graduate student in chemistry, Dong Jin, is one of several researchers at Brown and Yale to demonstrate a new “enabling technology” that could use excess carbon dioxide to produce acrylate, a valuable commodity chemical involved in the manufacture of everything from polyester cloth to disposable diapers. Chemical companies churn out billions of tons of acrylate each year, usually by heating propylene, a compound derived from crude oil. Jin is working with Wesley Bernskoetter, assistant professor of chemistry, to enhance both the economics and the sustainability of how acrylate is made.

 “Right now, everything that goes into making it is from relatively expensive, nonrenewable carbon sources,” said Bernskoetter.

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article about using excess carbon dioxide in manufacuring.