The Brown-Yale Center for Chemical Innovation (CCI) aims to develop new catalytic chemistries that enable CO2 to become a sustainable feedstock for large-scale commodity chemicals. Currently, many of the feedstocks for the world’s most widely used commodity chemicals are derived from non-sustainable carbon sources such as petroleum. The catalytic conversion of CO2 into alternative feedstocks is a promising alternative because of the great abundance of CO2. Previous studies have demonstrated that this greenhouse gas can serve as a readily available and inexpensive source of carbon in the synthesis of more complex organic molecules, but fundamental advances are needed in order to increase the range of compounds that can be synthesized from CO2.
The initial efforts of this center will focus on three chemical commodities: ethylene, acrylates, and formate. These commodities are targeted because they are produced on a multi-million ton scale annually, they are currently synthesized exclusively from petroleum feedstock, and they are themselves a feedstock for more complex chemical commodities as well as specialty chemicals and high-value polymeric materials. In short, the new chemical systems to be developed here would make it possible to produce some of the world’s largest-volume chemicals from a benign, sustainable carbon source that the earth not only has in excess but urgently needs to reduce.