Using carbon dioxide to create pharmaceutical products

New research finds a way to utilize carbon dioxide for creating chemical for the pharmaceutical sector.

Global warming is a major concern worldwide. Greenhouse gases are the primary cause for it, in particular, carbon dioxide is perhaps one of the most harmful gases for the environment which is continuously being pumped by the industrial sector. More-than-ever, there exists a need to utilize carbon dioxide in some form or the other to reduce the number of emissions left out in the environment.

There has been various developments throughout the years for capturing carbon and utilizing it in some way by using excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere or from the point of source, instead of fossil fuels, to synthesize chemicals used to make everyday products ranging from plastics to fuels to pharmaceuticals, in order to achieve the dream of a sustainable development.

Feng Jiao, an assistant professor at the chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware, and his colleagues have further advanced the study of carbon capture utilization promising the use of carbon across various industries.

In the journal Nature Chemistry, Jiao and other researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Nanjing University (China), and Soochow University (China) have described how they formed carbon-nitrogen bonds in an electrochemical carbon monoxide reduction reaction, which resulted in the production of high-value chemicals called amides. Amides are useful across various industries, including pharmaceutical. The team is the first to achieve this.

“Now, starting with carbon dioxide as a carbon source, we can expand to a variety of products,” said Jiao, the associate director for UD’s Center for Catalytic Science and Technology (CCST).

The key behind all these findings is electrochemistry. Electrochemistry is the study of chemical processes which causes electrons to move. This movement of electrons is called electricity, which can be generated by movements of electrons from one element to another in a reaction known as a redox reaction. In Jiao’s previous efforts, he developed a special silver catalyst, which converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. Then he further pushed on the idea of turning carbon monoxide into multi-carbon products which can be used for the production of fuels, pharmaceuticals and so much more.

The idea of using carbon dioxide as a source of various products is revolutionary. A sustainable future with the concern of carbon dioxide pollution isn’t looking too far with Jiao’s vision.


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