Methanol – a transparent liquid that can be made from agricultural waste – has long been considered a green alternative to the addition of fossil fuels. But it is only toxic and only half the volume of the same volume of conventional fuel is capable. Now, researchers are reporting that they have created an inexpensive way to use sunlight to convert methanol into ethanol, a popular lead fuel that is less harmful and way more energy efficient. Read this article “UV Light-A New Source of Green Fuel” completely to find out how.
The new report is “awesome,” said Zhongmin Liu, a chemist at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China who did not participate in the study. If the process is not done well and is accessible, he says, “It has the power to change the world.”
The idea of converting methanol to ethanol is nothing new. Companies already have the team for the chemical processes that do accordingly. But this requires adding heat, pressure, and toxic additives, such as carbon monoxide. Firms can make ethanol directly by replacing corn or sugar cane stalks. But growing those crops requires a valuable farm that can grow more food. Researchers and companies have also come up with ways to convert agricultural waste into ethanol. So far, this has proven to be very competitive.
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Chao-Jun Li, a pharmacist at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, thought there could be a better way. In 2014, he and his colleagues showed a small forest of semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) nanowires that could work as part of converting methane gas into benzene, a commercial chemical used to make dozens of other industrial components such as plastics, solvents, and attachments. Catalysts are amalgams that encourage other chemicals to react but are themselves not used at work. As a result, they can do their work over and over again. In this case, nanowires rearrange the chemical bonds between carbon atoms, which is also required to convert methanol to ethanol. Therefore, McGill researchers have decided to see if GaN nanowires can work their magic in methanol.
Scientists are developing and examining several different nanowire compositions. As they reported online last week in the journal Chem, they found a long forest of small GaN nanowires with magnesium worked better to absorb ultraviolet (UV) light and use that energy to convert methanol to ethanol. The captivated UV light caused the nanowires’ outsides to become more negatively charged than their cores, the team found. The case draws a molecule of water from a single molecule of methanol sitting in a nanowire, leaving a reactive compound called methyl carbene. Though the water molecule moves down, the carbene reacts with the nearby molecule of methanol to form ethanol.
Liu argues that the process is merely proof of concept. Converting methanol to ethanol requires UV light, which is just a beam of sunlight reaching the Earth. For the process to be economical, he says, it may need to hold the nanowires to make them work with visible light, which is less powerful than UV light, but much larger in direct sunlight.
In addition to producing ethanol, the nanowire facilitator can also produce other important hydrocarbons such as 1-propanol, a chemical used in pharmaceutical production, from methanol, Li notes. This ability raises the prospects of adapting nanowires to convert low-cost chemicals into high-quality species, using only light.
I hope this article “UV Light-A New Source of Green Fuel” brought some light.
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