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Light and air: Sunlight-driven CO2 fixation

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Posted November 19, 2012

Reduction of CO2 emissions is one of the main obstacles faced by modern industry. There are methods already available that could successfully capture and bond this type of gas during early production stages, however all of them are too expensive or too complicated. But how about using the light to drive the fixation of CO2?

Without any doubt, this would be probably entirely green way of dealing with CO2 emissions: light as renewable source of energy is abundant and basically available everywhere. Perhaps this was the initial reason and motivation for the work accomplished by German and Japanese researchers:

The use of carbon dioxide as a source of carbon may be an attractive option for reducing the consumption of fossil feedstocks and improving the CO2 footprint of chemical products. The biggest obstacle in our way is the high stability of the CO2 molecule. One of the possibilities for jumping this hurdle is to use very high-energy molecules to react with CO2.

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Researchers working with Masahiro Murakami at Kyoto University used the same principle to design their process. In this case, the first step is also a reaction driven by light. The action of UV light can convert the starting material, an α-methylamino ketone, to a very energetic molecule. This also works with sunlight, as the researchers found out. An intramolecular rearrangement with ring closure results in a molecule containing a ring made of three carbon atoms and one nitrogen atom. This type of ring is under a great deal of strain and is correspondingly reactive. This “light reaction” was coupled to a “dark reaction”: In the subsequent light-independent step, the highly energetic compound captures CO2 in the presence of a base. This forms a cyclic amino-substituted carbonic acid diester that could be useful as an intermediate for chemical syntheses.

Read more at: Phys.org

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