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Research aims to produce negative-emission fuels from industrial CO2

Scientists at Loughborough have created a new chemical process which converts industrial CO2 emissions into useable green fuels and chemicals.

Several prototype devices, powered by wind and solar, which draw in polluted air from factories and power plants, and convert the carbon dioxide into high-energy, dense liquid fuel.

Chemical engineer Dr Jin Xuan, of Loughborough University, has manufactured a number of electrochemical and photoelectrochemical processes, under lab conditions, which convert carbon emissions into chemicals such as:

  • Methanol – used as an alternative to gasoline
  • Hydrogen – for green fuel
  • Formic acid – used as a preservative and antibacterial agent in livestock feed

The next phase of the research, which is supported by the EPSRC and the Royal Society, will be to pilot and test the devices in an industrial setting.

‌A prototype lab device

Dr Xuan said: “Over the past years our research has focused on the novel reactors, processes and systems to convert captured CO2 into value-added fuels and chemicals such as formic acid and methanol.

“We have developed a number of different approaches based on either chemical, electrochemical or photoelectrochemical process to realise the CO2-to-value conversion.

“We also perform system level carbon audit to ensure the overall negative-emission from life cycle point of view.

“So far, we have successfully built lab prototypes for the CO2-to-fuel process and have had several papers published.

“The goal is to have the system integrated into the industrial clusters – iron, steel and chemical factories – to capture the CO2 from industrial processes and transform them into useful fuels.

“The device will be driven by renewable energy such as wind and solar and we are currently in the process of developing them for demonstrations in real systems.”

*Electrochemical reaction: A process either caused or accompanied by the passage of an electric current and involving in most cases the transfer of electrons between two substances—one a solid and the other a liquid

The Climate Change Act 2008 has set a greenhouse gas target reduction of 80 per cent – which will take the UK from 1990’s emission figures of 770 million tonnes to 154 million tonnes by 2050.

The Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has set a target of having the world’s first net-zero carbon industrial cluster by 2040 and at least one low-carbon cluster by 2030.

The UK's largest industrial cluster, in Humberside, currently produces 12.6MtCO2 (metric tons of carbon dioxide) a year.

ENDS

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/35

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Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

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It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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