Green carbon for the chemical industry of the future at the Royal Society

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In a bid to confront the pressing need for sustainable chemical production, a recent scientific discussion meeting at the Royal Society delved into the realm of ‘Green carbon for the chemical industry of the future.’  CPLAS investigators Sir Richard Catlow and Professor Graham Hutchings orangised the event which served as a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration to address the challenges of transitioning to a net-zero carbon future.

The imperative for sustainable chemical production stems from the global mandate to derive essential chemicals and materials from renewable resources. As society grapples with the urgency of mitigating climate change, a pivotal shift toward a chemical industry rooted in non-fossil carbon sources becomes paramount. This meeting, held over two enlightening days in the heart of London, convened leading minds from around the world to dissect this grand challenge.

CPLAS Lead at Imperial, Professor Ifan Stephens of Imperial College London, gave a talk at the event titled “Towards the electrification of chemical production,” which underscored the transformative potential of leveraging renewable electricity in chemical synthesis. Traditionally, the production of key chemicals like ethylene or ammonia has relied on centralised, energy-intensive processes fraught with safety and logistical hurdles. However, Professor Stephens illuminated a promising pathway forward: electrochemical synthesis.

With the advent of inexpensive renewable electricity, electrochemical routes offer a compelling alternative. By operating at lower temperatures and pressures, these methods not only enhance safety but also pave the way for decentralised production systems. Professor Stephens highlighted recent strides in electrochemical valorisation, demonstrating how CO2, furfural, and glycerol can be transformed into fuels and high-value chemicals with minimal infrastructure requirements.

You can watch Ifan’s talk below.

The meeting’s rich tapestry of insights underscored the collective ambition to revolutionise chemical production paradigms. The Royal Society event galvanised momentum towards a greener, more sustainable future by fostering dialogue among scientists, engineers, and industry leaders. As the world navigates the complexities of climate change, collaborative efforts serve as beacons of hope, illuminating pathways toward a carbon-neutral tomorrow.