WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2013 — Could a simple molecule known as methanol become a key energy source for the post-fossil fuel era? 1994 Nobel Prize in Chemistry winner George Olah, Ph.D., and Surya Prakash, Ph.D., think so. Their promising alternative fuel concept, known as the “methanol economy,” is the focus of the latest episode of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) Bytesize Science series, available at www.youtube.com/BytesizeScience.
“CO2 and hydrogen can be combined to make a very simple molecule called methanol … it could be used in your internal combustion engine as a high-octane fuel. In fact, methanol is the fuel of choice for all race cars,” explains Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the University of Southern California Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute. Olah and Prakash recently won a $1 million prize from the Israeli government for their research on the methanol economy.
In the video, Prakash explains why methanol could be a viable option to produce clean, renewable energy. “The beauty is that methanol can be made from recycled carbon dioxide and any kind of energy. … Once we run out of oil and gas, mankind can keep on doing this forever. The CO2 recycling is also carbon-neutral,” says Prakash. In a bonus video also available at www.youtube.com/BytesizeScience, Prakash demonstrates how his team’s “direct oxidation fuel cell” prototype can use methanol to produce electricity.
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