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Net reduction of CO2 via its thermocatalytic and electrocatalytic transformation reactions in standard and hybrid processes

An Author Correction to this article was published on 24 April 2019

This article has been updated


Many research efforts into CO2 reduction to valuable products are motivated by a desire to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration. However, it is unclear how laboratory-scale catalytic performance translates to the goal of reducing CO2. In this Perspective, we analyse recently reported thermocatalytic and electrocatalytic performances for reduction of CO2 to methanol in terms of net CO2 reduction, on a mole basis. Our calculations indicate that even an ideal catalytic process needs to be powered by electricity emitting less than 0.2 kg of CO2 per kWh to achieve a net reduction in CO2. We conclude that hybrid processes combining thermocatalysis and electrocatalysis are promising opportunities to reduce CO2 to methanol, as long as practical electrocatalysts achieve reaction rates two orders of magnitude larger than those observed in current laboratory tests. In such a scenario, an increase in the global methanol market could benefit the overall reduction of atmospheric CO2 via conversion of CO2 to methanol.

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Fig. 1: Net CO2 emission for the four CO2 to methanol conversion cases as a function of CO2 emission per unit of electricity.
Fig. 2: Estimated electrolyser unit cost.
Fig. 3: The outlook for CO2 conversion to methanol to power road transportation.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

Change history

  • 24 April 2019

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, in Table 1, the selectivity for MeOH and CO (%) values were incorrect at 0.298 and 0.35, respectively, they should have read 29.8 and 35. This has now been corrected.


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This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Catalysis Program (DE-FG02-13ER16381).

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Authors and Affiliations



B.M.T. and E.G. contributed equally to this work. E.G. performed the Aspen calculations and any calculations regarding thermocatalysis. B.M.T. performed the calculations regarding electrocatalysis as well as the calculations for the economic considerations and CO2 avoidance. B.M.T., E.G., and J.G.C. wrote the manuscript. J.G.C. developed the concept of the Perspective and supervised the whole project.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jingguang G. Chen.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary Discussion; Supplementary Methods; Supplementary Tables 1; Supplementary Figures 1–5; Supplementary References

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Tackett, B.M., Gomez, E. & Chen, J.G. Net reduction of CO2 via its thermocatalytic and electrocatalytic transformation reactions in standard and hybrid processes. Nat Catal 2, 381–386 (2019).

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