BRASILIA, Aug 4 — Capture one of the most powerful greenhouse gases and convert it into biodiesel, while reducing the energy costs of the process: this is a project that a team of Brazilian researchers is currently working on.

While carbon dioxide is likely the first gas that comes to mind when we talk about global warming, methane is also highly problematic. Emissions from this powerful greenhouse gas are 25 times more potent than those of CO2 when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere.

As the world works on transitioning to renewable energies, finding a way to use and neutralize the methane released into the atmosphere is becoming a crucial issue for the planet, argue scientists from the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil. They have developed a process that consists of oxidizing methane emissions with photocatalysts produced through dispersed transition metals (particularly copper) at a standard atmospheric pressure very close to that observed at sea level.

In Brazil, methanol plays a key role in the chemical industry and in the production of biodiesel. For example, the city of Franca, located in the eastern part of the country in the state of São Paulo, has been using methane from wastewater treatment plants to fuel its vehicles for the past decade.

And, although natural gas is considered a fossil fuel, converting it to methanol emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than other liquid fuels in the same category, outlines a release on the study published in the journal Chemical Communications.

“In the chemical industry, this conversion occurs via the production of hydrogen and CO2 in at least two stages and under very high temperature and pressure conditions. Our success in obtaining methanol under mild conditions, while also expending less energy, is a major step forward,” declared Ivo Freitas Teixeira, co-author of the study, in a press release.

While the methane tested in the first phases of the trial was in its pure state, scientists hope in the near future to be able to extract the gas from renewable sources, such as biomass, i.e. all organic matter (plant and animal) convertible into energy. — ETX Studio