Earned 3 Patents: Research project to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbon products and mitigate global warming

Nov. 5, 2019  |   Research

Carbon dioxide gas is a major contributor to the greenhouse effect and has been recognized as a principle source of global warming. Various initiatives have been carried out across the globe to mitigate carbon dioxide emission. The world consumes approximately one billion barrels of oil equal to atmospheric release of 1 trillion pounds of CO2 for each 12 days, which is creating serious problems such as global warming, drought and deforestation affecting living conditions on earth and drastic climate change. The new study revealed a linear link between emissions of CO2 and the loss of Arctic sea ice, which has shrunk by half in the last 40 years. The link enables people to understand their own contribution to climate change.

A research team at KFUPM, led by Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Gondal and consisting of two Master’s students, have worked on this distinguished research project which aimed to develop cost-effective, stable and high-performance nanostructured photocatalytic materials using various synthesis techniques (pulsed laser ablation in liquids, wet chemistry, solid-state synthesis, sol-gel, hydrothermal technique, precipitation etc) to be used in photocatalysis to convert CO2 into methanol.

Photo-catalysis is a process in which the light irradiation on the catalyst produces excitation of electrons leading to formation of conduction band electrons and valance band holes, which serve as the sites for photo-reduction and photo-oxidation, respectively as shown in the figure below.

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Figure 1: Photocatalysis process.

In this research project, our main achievement is that we developed a low-cost carbon nitride-based novel photocatalyst for the efficient conversion of CO2 to methanol, and our research findings are highly promising. Besides carbon nitride, a number of nano-structured photocatalytic materials were synthesized, characterized and screened in this project.

The long-term vision of this research project study is to encourage multi-disciplinary research and technology transfer in the field of nano-structured materials and their applications for CO2 conversion into high-value products such as methanol and other hydrocarbons. This study will form a technical base for collaboration among these and other departments in this applied research, and the outcome of this research will be very useful for industrial applications of CO2 conversion to mitigate the environmental problems.

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Photocatalysts Manufacturing Process.

The scholarly outcome from this research project has been recognized in the form of 3 patents issued recently by United States Patent and Trademark Office (no.: 10131602, 10131601, 10047027). In addition, the findings from this project have been published in numerous journals (Environ. Chem. Letters, 16, 183-210 (2018), Int J Energy Res. 2018;42:2031–2049, Inter. J. Energy Res 41(14), pp. 2162-2172, 2017, J. Env Sci & Health, Part A 52:2017 (8), 785-793). The other motives was that by using this project as a platform to achieve excellent scholarly outcomes such as PhD and MS students training(thesis) and the development of patented technologies as well as high-impact publications. All these research are directed to cater the needs of local industries, as well as aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 which envisions reducing Kingdom’s dependence on oil and relying on alternatives diverse economy.

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Industrial Applications besides alleviation of Global Warming.

Furthermore, we are considering commercializing this conversion process for the large-scale industrial-level conversion of CO2 into methanol using solar-based photoreactors for producing renewable products and other plastic products, which would synchronize well with the Kingdom’s vision to reduce dependence on petroleum products.

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Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Gondal.

Dr. Mohammad Ashraf Gondal works as a distinguished Professor of Physics, is the Director of Laser Research Group, KFUPM and also Senior Research Fellow of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE). His research interests focus on applied physics including laser and their applications in nanotechnology, biophysics, solar/renewable energy, energy storage devices, environment protection & monitoring, sensors, CO2 reduction, hydrogen production, chemical science, waste water treatment, photocatalysis and spectroscopy. He has published over 500 hundreds novel research papers, leading to thousands of citations. He is a renowned scientist in the various fields associated with laser physics and applications.

The detailed description of such system could be found in the publications of principal investigator (Dr. M.A. Gondal) home page:(http://faculty.kfupm.edu.sa/Phys/magondal/ ).