A catalyst could improve the manufacture of methanol, a promising fuel for renewable energy, from carbon dioxide. Current methods require high pressures or generate carbon monoxide, an undesirable by-product.

Jens Nørskov at Stanford University in California and his colleagues modelled the chemical reduction of CO2 to methanol at ambient pressure and identified nickel–gallium-based compounds as promising catalysts.

The researchers synthesized and tested a series of these catalysts, and found that Ni5Ga3 produced the same or larger amounts of methanol compared with conventional catalysts, while also generating less CO, all at ambient pressure.

This catalyst could be used to make methanol as a fuel in, for instance, fuel cells, the authors say.

Nature Chem. http://doi.org/rss (2014)