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Dr. Raveendran Shiju of the Heterogeneous Catalysis and Sustainable Chemistry group at the Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences (HIMS) was awarded funding in the European research project CAPITA (Catalytic Processes for Innovative Technology Application). He will participate in a consortium exploring new routes and reactors for the catalytic synthesis of methanol from carbon dioxide. The project is part of the UvA Research Priority Area Sustainable Chemistry.

Photo of Shiju
Dr. Raveendran Shiju

Shiju's research project is aimed at producing methanol from renewable biomass resources. When used as a fuel this 'green methanol' can significantly reduce the emission of greenhouse-gases. Furthermore, it can help to make the chemicals industry more sustainable. Methanol is an important 'platform chemical' on which a large variety of synthetic pathways are based.

Membrane reactors

Methanol can be made from renewable biomass by gasification or reforming to synthesis gas followed by hydrogenation. But the current process is complex, requiring high pressures and high recycle ratios. Shiju and his collaborators aim to develop a single-step, highly effective and environmental-friendly alternative pathway for methanol synthesis. They envisage a catalytic route, combining carbon dioxide and water at atmospheric pressure to produce methanol.

This will be achieved by the use of so-called co-ionic conducting ceramic Electrochemical Membrane Reactors (EMRs). In such a reactor an anodic catalyst will facilitate the electrolysis of water to protons and oxide anions. The protons will be transferred electrochemically through the conducting membrane to the cathodic electrode-catalyst. Here they will react with CO2 to form methanol.

Consortium partners 

Gadi Rothenberg
Prof. Gadi Rothenberg

The UvA team, led by Shiju together with Prof. Gadi Rothenberg, is funded with € 250,000. Other partners in the consortium for catalyst development include the University of Castilla-La-Mancha (UCLM, Spain), the Technological Educational Institute of Sterea Ellada (TEISE, Greece) and the Chemical Process Engineering Research Institute (CPERI, Greece).

Three companies are involved: Hellenic Petroleum Renewables (HELPE RES, Greece), GRAPHENANO (Spain), and Delft Solid Solutions (Netherlands). The latter is a spin-off company from TU Delft that specializes in materials design and characterization. By involving industry at the early project stages the consortium expects to increase the chance of successfully developing a 'green methanol' reactor.

In the FP7 ERA-Net project CAPITA six European countries participate in funding cooperative research projects in the field of catalysis. In the first CAPITA call three projects were selected from eleven eligible proposals. With these projects, CAPITA utilizes M€ 2.2 of the call budget.