Gold and copper mix recycles emissions

An American research institute has found gold and copper could be used to capture carbon dioxide emissions. Researchers around the world have studied copper’s potential as a means of recycling […]

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By Tom Gibson

An American research institute has found gold and copper could be used to capture carbon dioxide emissions.

Researchers around the world have studied copper’s potential as a means of recycling emissions in power plants: carbon dioxide is circulated through a copper catalyst and turned into methane, which could then power the rest of the plant.

Copper acts as a good catalyst but is temperamental and creates unwanted by-products, say experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Now researchers at MIT have come up with a solution that may further reduce the energy needed for copper to convert carbon dioxide. The group has engineered tiny nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold, which is resistant to corrosion and oxidation. The researchers observed that a small amount of gold makes copper much more stable.

Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli an associate professor of mechanical engineering and biological engineering at MIT said: “You normally have to put a lot of energy into converting carbon dioxide into something useful. We demonstrated hybrid copper-gold nanoparticles are much more stable, and have the potential to lower the energy you need for the reaction.”

However, coating industrial-scale electrodes partly with gold sounds like it’s pretty expensive. The research team say the energy savings and the reuse potential for such electrodes may balance the initial costs.

Hamad-Schifferli added: “It’s a trade-off. Gold is obviously more expensive than copper. But if it helps you get a product that’s more attractive like methane instead of carbon dioxide and at a lower energy consumption, then it may be worth it. If you could reuse it over and over again and the durability is higher because of the gold, that’s a check in the plus column.”