Chemical Conversion of Carbon Dioxide


Cláudio Mota, Director of the Institute of Chemistry, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Global warming, from the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2), is one of the greatest challenges for humanity in this century. CO2 does not respect borders; the gas emitted in one country or continent affects the climate of other countries or continents, making it a global problem.

Oil, coal and natural gas will continue to play a significant role in the world’s energy matrix, despite all efforts to advance the use of renewable energy, such as biofuels, wind and solar. Therefore, solutions will have to be found to mitigate the effect of CO2 emitted on the planet’s climate. In this context, the capture and conversion of CO2 into fuels and chemical products appears as an economically, environmentally and socially viable alternative, contributing to the greater sustainability of the planet.

Joint research between the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and the University of York in the United Kingdom seeks to find technically and economically viable solutions for the use of CO2 emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, transforming it into chemical inputs (feedstock), such as organic carbonates. These substances have numerous applications, ranging from the production of high-strength plastics, used in construction and unbreakable lenses, to use in batteries for mobile phones, laptops and other electronic equipment.

The research is focused on improving the production process of organic carbonates by developing more efficient and cheaper catalysts. Catalysts are substances that accelerate a chemical reaction and are the heart of any industrial chemical process, allowing the desired product to be obtained in maximum quantity and under the optimal reaction conditions (temperature, pressure and time). The studies also aim to develop catalysts that use abundant chemical elements in the earth’s crust, within the context of “Green Chemistry”. Thus, the importance of joint research between the Brazilian and British groups is not limited to the use of CO2 at any cost; the context is broader, contributing to greater sustainability of the planet, focusing on preserving the environment and the finite reserves of some metals commonly used in the production process of organic carbonates.

The collaboration also contributes to the scientific approach between the two countries through student exchange, workshops of green chemistry concept dissemination and CO2 utilization, as well as scientific and academic publications. The first workshop took place at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, in August 2018, and its main theme was Green Chemistry and the use of CO2. This workshop was previous to the 16th International Conference on Carbon Dioxide Utilisation (ICCDU), held in Rio de Janeiro, also in August 2018. For the first time in history, this important event related to sustainability and climate changes was held in a developing country, gathering more than 150 participants from all the parts of the planet.

Workshop on Green Chemistry and CO2 Utilization at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, August 2018

Joint Research Project, Brazil-UK

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – University of York


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