Washington: In a bid to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the environment, researchers have discovered a new method to convert the environmental pollutant to a valuable organic compound.
The research team at Louisiana State University has found a cyclic copper complex that converts carbon dioxide to oxalate.
Carbon dioxide is naturally present in the air as part of the normal circulation of carbon among the Earth's atmosphere, ocean, and land surface; however, human activities are shifting the natural carbon cycle by adding more carbon dioxide and influencing nature's ability to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.
"The particular chemistry we have discovered is more interesting than most of the things we have done, because everyone wants to solve this carbon dioxide problem. This is just one step to solving the puzzle," said Andrew Maverick, Professor of Chemistry and acting associate dean in the LSU College of Science.
Maverick and his team developed a three-step reaction sequence in which a copper complex converts carbon dioxide to oxalate under mild conditions.
The copper complex is first reduced by reaction with sodium ascorbate or vitamin C. The reduced complex selectively reacts with carbon dioxide from air and fixes it into oxalate, with the oxalate ion bridging between two copper atoms.
A key component to this discovery was the development of a compound that would react with carbon dioxide. The research team created more than 50 different compounds before finding the one that would react with carbon dioxide.
"Carbon dioxide does not want to react with just any compound," Maverick said.
"Even highly energetic molecules often do not react with CO2. So, it is important to search for compounds like our copper complex, which will convert CO2 into something with a little more stored energy," Maverick added.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.