Carbon capture and mobile hydrogen generation

The ability to monitor greenhouse gases emitted by power stations and industrial sites is becoming more prominent as governments aim to meet ambitious climate targets. A recent development from the University of Oxford provides highly active catalysts for converting waste CO2 into methanol, a valuable sustainable fuel with a global market. The catalysts show excellent activity and selectivity under “real-world” conditions of excess CO2. Furthermore, the same catalysts show excellent activity and selectivity in the generation of hydrogen from methanol. Reactors based on these catalysts will enable smaller, lighter and more cost-effective hydrogen fuel cell systems to be brought to market.

Carbon capture

As climate change becomes an increasingly prevalent factor on the global agenda, governments and industry are working to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted. Technologies that enable waste carbon dioxide to be captured and converted to useful compounds are in high demand. The conversion of waste carbon dioxide to methanol is particularly favourable, as methanol produced in this manner is the subject of global demand as a sustainable fuel source.

Current catalyst systems for enabling this transformation do not provide the requisite selectivity for methanol under conditions of excess carbon dioxide. The requirement to regulate the pressure of waste gases is of economic detriment to currently available processes.

Mobile hydrogen generation

Hydrogen fuel cells are being adopted as a convenient power source for several applications, particularly for off-grid and backup power. Methanol is an attractive source of hydrogen for fuel cells, however, current catalysts for the generation of hydrogen from methanol are not sufficiently selective. This results in a requirement for additional clean-up steps of the hydrogen stream prior to its introduction to the fuel cell. Such additional processing adds to the size, weight and cost of the fuel cell systems.

New catalysts

Oxford researchers have developed new catalyst compositions that enable the efficient synthesis of methanol from waste gases and the selective generation of hydrogen from methanol.

  • Excellent activity and selectivity for methanol in the presence of excess carbon dioxide
  • Generation of contaminant-free hydrogen from methanol
  • Opportunity to develop small, efficient reactors for improved hydrogen fuel cell systems


The catalysts are the subject of a UK priority patent application with the scope for international protection in the future. Oxford University Innovation would like to speak to potential industrial partners with an interest in developing the technology further.

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