A team of researchers at Brown University have found a method to efficiently convert carbon dioxide into complex hydrocarbon products by using a new catalyst that could help carbon recycling efforts.

In a study published in Nature Communications, the researchers report a catalyst that can produce C2 plus compounds with up to 72% faradaic efficiency (a measure of how efficiently electrical energy is used to convert carbon dioxide into chemical reaction products).

According the researchers, their findings are better than reported efficiencies of other catalysts for C2. The researchers also said that the preparation process can be scaled up to an industrial level fairly easily, giving the new catalyst potential for large scale carbon recycling.

“There has been reports in the literature of all kinds of different treatments for copper that could produce there C2-plus with a range of different efficiencies,” said Tayhas Palmore Professor of Engineering at Brown and Co-Author of the paper. 

“Ultimately, everyone seeks to increase the number of carbons in the product to the point of producing higher carbon fuels and chemicals.”

The researchers hope that such a catalyst will aid in large-scale recycling of CO2. The idea is to capture CO2 produced by industrial facilities like power plants, cement manufacturing or directly from air, and convert it into other useful carbon compounds. That requires an efficient catalyst that is easy to produce and regenerate, and inexpensive enough to operate on an industrial scale. This new catalyst is a promising candidate, the researchers say.