Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ultrashort laser pulses make greenhouse gas reactive

15.03.2018

It is a long-cherished dream: Removing the inert greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and using it as a basic material for the chemical industry. This could address two major problems at once by containing climate change and at the same time reducing the dependence on oil. Physico-chemists at the University of Bonn are in the process of making significant contributions to this vision. They have discovered a new way to create a highly reactive form of carbon dioxide with the help of laser pulses. The results have been published online in advance and will soon be presented in the printed edition of the journal “Angewandte Chemie”.

Every day, nature shows humans how to elegantly bind carbon dioxide from the air and transform it into a much-needed raw material. Plants perform photosynthesis with their green leaves when exposed to light. Oxygen and the much-needed energy and nutrient supplier sugar are created from carbon dioxide and water with the help of sunlight.


At the laser and infrared spectrometer: Prof. Peter Vöhringer (left) and Steffen Straub in the Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry at University of Bonn.

(c) Photo: Barbara Frommann/Uni Bonn

“Scientists have been striving to mimic this model for a long time, for instance in order to use carbon dioxide for the chemical industry," says Prof. Dr. Peter Vöhringer from the Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry of the University of Bonn. What makes the concept hard to implement is that it is very difficult to push carbon dioxide into new partnerships with other molecules.

With his team, the physico-chemist has now discovered a new way of generating a highly reactive variant of the inert and hard-to-bind greenhouse gas. The researchers used a so-called iron complex: The center contains a positively charged iron atom, to which the constituents of the carbon dioxide are already bound multiple times.

The scientists shot ultrashort laser pulses of ultraviolet light onto this iron complex, which broke certain bonds. The resulting product was a so-called carbon dioxide radical, which also forms new bonds with a certain radicality.

Such radicals have a single electron in their outer shell that urgently wants to bind permanently to another molecule or atom. “It is this unpaired electron that distinguishes our reactive radical anion bound to the central iron atom from the inert carbon dioxide and makes it so promising for chemical processes”, explains lead author Steffen Straub from Vöhringer's team. The radicals could in turn be the building blocks for interesting chemical products, such as methanol as a fuel or urea for chemical syntheses and salicylic acid as a pain medication.

Spectrometer shows molecules at work

With their laser and infrared spectrometer, a large apparatus in the basement of the institute, the scientists watch the molecules at work. The spectrometer measures the characteristic vibrations of the molecules, and this “fingerprint” allows them to identify the bonds between different atoms. “The formation of the carbon dioxide radical within the iron complex changes the bonds between the atoms, which reduces the frequency of the characteristic carbon dioxide vibration”, explains Straub.

With forensic instinct, the scientists were able to prove that the laser pulses really do produce the reactive carbon dioxide radical. First, the team simulated the vibrational spectra of the molecules on the computer, then compared the calculations to the measurements.

The result: Simulation and experiment were indeed an excellent match. Like a “molecular motion picture”, the spectrometer took “snapshots” in the unimaginable temporal resolution of millionths of a billionth of a second. On the basis of the spectra, which correspond to the individual images of a film, it can thus be revealed - essentially in slow motion - how the iron complex deforms under pulsed laser illumination over several stages, the bonds break up and finally the radical is formed.

“Our findings have the potential to fundamentally change ideas about how to extract the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to produce important chemical products”, says Vöhringer. However, suitable catalysts would still have to be developed for industrial use because laser pulses are not efficient for large-scale conversion. “Nonetheless, our results provide clues as to how such a catalyst would have to be designed”, adds the scientist. The current study fits in with the multidisciplinary key profile areas on sustainability as well as matter research at the University of Bonn.

Publication: Steffen Straub, Paul Brünker, Jörg Lindner, and Peter Vöhringer: An Iron Complex with a Bent, O-Coordinated CO2-Ligand Discovered by Femtosecond Mid-Infrared Spectroscopy, Angewandte Chemie (DOI: 10.1002/ange.201800672) und Angewandte Chemie International Edition (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201800672)

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Peter Vöhringer
Molecular Physical Chemistry Group
Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
Tel. +49(0)228/737050
E-mail: p.voehringer@uni-bonn.de

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.uni-bonn.de

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'
21.08.2018 | University of Rochester

nachricht Protein interaction helps Yersinia cause disease
21.08.2018 | Schwedischer Forschungsrat - The Swedish Research Council

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>