warm thoughts


Written on: September 5, 2023

From the National Propane Gas Association Bobtail

A recent leap in chemical innovation emerges as a beacon of progress for the propane industry. Spearheaded by visionary researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology (ITT), this breakthrough ushers in an era that promises to amplify the already remarkable contributions of the propane industry to the global energy landscape.

At the heart of this transformation lies the innovative capacity to harness carbon dioxide (CO2) and transmute it into propane—a milestone that has eluded the scientific community for years. This watershed discovery embodies the spirit of ingenuity that is required to navigate the complex web of energy production and environmental sustainability.

Amid the imperative to combat climate change and transition to sustainable energy, the goal to convert CO2 into larger, valuable molecules such as propane takes center stage. This pursuit aligns with the global mission to reduce CO2 emissions and catalyze a shift towards sustainable energy sources. For decades, scientists have been on a quest to unlock the secrets of CO2 conversion, and ITT’s breakthrough is a monumental leap towards realizing this vision.

The researchers at ITT have transcended conventional wisdom. Traditional approaches explored metal oxide-based catalysts for CO2 conversion and these endeavors often stumbled upon roadblocks, including catalyst deactivation and a lack of selectivity, or the ability to narrow production to a single molecule, such as propane. ITT’s brilliant approach embraces an unconventional methodology grounded in the utilization of economically viable materials. This innovative strategy, coupled with a shift to continuous processing, enhances efficiency and opens the doors to scalability—an indispensable facet of any solution aiming to reshape entire industries.

The Catalyst for Change: Molybdenum, Phosphorus, and Carbon

Central to the transformational process are the precisely engineered particles constructed from molybdenum (Mo), phosphorus (P), and carbon (C). This triad of elements forms the backbone upon which the conversion of CO2 into propane rests. However, the complexity doesn’t stop there. The incorporation of imidazolium-based ionic liquids introduces a layer of intricacy that amplifies the selectivity of the catalytic process. This strategic integration guides the reaction toward the coveted output of propane, ensuring that the conversion process is both efficient and focused.

The significance of ITT’s breakthrough reverberates far beyond its laboratory confines. The conversion of CO2, a notorious greenhouse gas, into a valuable energy source like propane carries the potential to simultaneously reduce emissions and advance energy access. With sustainability at its core, this breakthrough speaks to a future where energy production and environmental preservation go hand-in-hand. In essence, a circular renewable hydrocarbon process has been discovered that can ensure the viability of propane into the future.

Charting a Course for the Future: Collaboration and Expansion

Industry partnerships, government initiatives, and global cooperation stand to amplify the impact of this discovery. The journey to refine the technology, explore novel applications, and integrate it seamlessly into existing energy infrastructure is a collective endeavor that transcends disciplines and borders.

The discovery of turning CO2 into propane stands as a testament to human innovation and determination. As the world strives for cleaner energy solutions, ITT’s pioneering electrolyzer device offers a ray of hope, a tangible example of how science and technology can align with environmental aspirations. The road to a sustainable energy future is complex and multifaceted. Achievements like this highlight the propane industry’s pivotal role in forging a path towards a better world for future generations.

Please contact Alex Smith, Director of Codes and Standards, at asmith@npga.org with questions or to share new information.