The renaissance of the Sabatier reaction and its applications on Earth and in space

Abstract

The Sabatier reaction (that is, CO2 methanation) is undergoing a revival for two main reasons. First, the power-to-gas concept offers the prospect of large-scale recycling of (point source) CO2 emissions, in combination with the use of large quantities of renewable energy to form methane. When this can be achieved in a cost-effective manner, it can use the gas distribution infrastructure that already exists. However, methanation is no simple panacea to the detrimental environmental effect of CO2 emissions, and reaction products other than methane should also be targeted. Second, methanation has been identified as an important reaction to facilitate long-term space exploration missions by space agencies, such as NASA. This Perspective discusses the current understanding of CO2 hydrogenation within these concepts, from fundamental mechanistic aspects to several parameters that will ultimately define its technical and economic feasibility on Earth and in space, as we transition into the era of small-molecule activation.

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Fig. 1: Carbon budget and future scenarios.
Fig. 2: Schematic overview of the proposed pathways towards non-fossil-based fuels and chemicals.
Fig. 3: Possible reaction pathways for the methanation of CO2.
Fig. 4: An overview of TOF trends found in the literature for thermocatalytic and electrocatalytic CO2 reduction.
Fig. 5: Structure sensitivity in thermocatalytic and electrochemical CO2 reduction.

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Acknowledgements

This work is supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) Gravitation program, Netherlands Center for Multiscale Catalytic Energy Conversion (MCEC), the Advanced Research Center Chemical Building Blocks Consortium (ARC CBBC) as well as from NWO in the form of a TA-CHIPP grant. H. Wiersma (Utrecht University) is acknowledged for his literature search and executing exploratory calculations.

Author information

C.V. and B.M.W. conceived the theme. C.V., M.M. and B.M.W. wrote the manuscript and designed the schemes and figures. G.J.K. contributed with insights and discussions. All authors contributed data and insights, discussed and edited the manuscript.

Correspondence to Bert M. Weckhuysen.

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Vogt, C., Monai, M., Kramer, G.J. et al. The renaissance of the Sabatier reaction and its applications on Earth and in space. Nat Catal 2, 188–197 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41929-019-0244-4

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