Carbon Capture Materials

333: Plastic from waste CO₂


Once captured, CO₂ must be recycled.


Phil De Luna and a team at the University of Toronto, Canada have found a way to recycle waste CO₂ back into ethylene, the raw material used to make the most commonly used plastic, polyethylene.

The team used a technique involving X-ray spectroscopy and computer modelling techniques at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) facility at the University of Saskatchewan – analysing matter with electromagnetic radiation to identify their key catalyst.

And it was thanks to a new piece of equipment developed by CLS senior scientist Tom Regier that the researchers were able to study both the shape and the chemical environment of the catalyst in real time. The researchers worked out how to control the reaction so that ethylene production was maximised, while waste products such as methane were kept to a minimum.

Armed with this new knowledge and a suitable carbon capture technology, we could potentially remove CO₂ from the atmosphere while producing plastics in an environmentally friendly way at the same time. Further research is required to refine the technique, but we now have one of the basic building blocks

For his breakthrough in 2019, De Luna was named in the 2019 Forbes Top 30 under 30 Energy List.

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