Chemical engineers from Monash University have developed an industrial process to produce acetic acid that uses excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and can potentially produce negative carbon emissions.
Acetic acid is a chemical used in various manufacturing industries and an ingredient in household vinegar, vinyl paints, and glues. Demand for the chemical is estimated to be 6.5 million tonnes yearly.
The research shows that acetic acid can be made from captured CO2 using an economical solid catalyst to replace liquid rhodium or iridium-based catalysts traditionally used by industries.
Liquid catalysts require additional separation and purification processes, and using a solid catalyst that does not require further processing can also help reduce emissions.
Associate professor Akshat Tanksale, the study’s lead researcher, explained that CO2 is overabundant in the atmosphere, and even if all industrial emissions were stopped, it would take at least a thousand years for nature to balance the excess.
“There is an urgent need to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into products that do not release the captured CO2 back into the atmosphere,” said Tanksale.
“Our team is focussed on creating a novel industrially relevant method, which can be applied at the large scale required to encourage negative emissions.”
From an industrial point of view, the researchers said the new process would be more efficient and cost-effective. From an environmental perspective, it offers an opportunity to improve manufacturing processes that significantly pollute the environment.
The researchers are currently developing the process for commercialisation in collaboration with their industry partners as part of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Carbon Utilisation and Recycling.