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Trapping and transforming CO2 into raw material

One strategic line of scientific research is to find out ways of trapping and transforming CO2 into a raw material. A scientific team at CSIC has led the development of a catalyser that allows transforming CO2 into derivates of acid formic.


Carbon dioxide (CO2) is cheap and abundant; it happens naturally in the environment and can be used to obtain other products. One of the most studied processes is  hydrogenation, which allows carbon dioxide fixation and its transformation into formic acid.


Formic acid has applications in sectors such as the chemical industry, agriculture, food technology and the production of leather products. Nevertheless, CO2 hydrogenation has never been implemented as an industrial process because it still has some technical problems which are difficult to solve.

Now, a research team led by the CSIC scientists Francisco Fernández-Álvarez and Luis Oro has developed a possible alternative. Both scientists are working at the “Instituto de Síntesis Química y Catálisis Homogénea”, a joint centre of the CSIC and the University of Zaragoza. They have led the development of a catalytic process that transforms carbon dioxide into silyl formates, derivates of formic acid that contain silicon.

Silicon polymers production

Silyl formates can be used for silicon polymers production and as production of silicon-based polymeric materials in industry and as reactive intermediates in organic syntheses. They could be also used to release formic acid from them.

One advantage of the process is that it takes place under mild reaction conditions: room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure or, as a maximum, three atmospheres. The process is highly selective, doesn’t require solvents and therefore doesn’t generate waste. The new catalyser is made on an iridium complex and it is stable in room conditions.

According to the CSIC’s scientist, Francisco Fernández-Álvarez, “this research might be an important step for CO2 transformation into industrial raw material”.

As scientist Luis Oro explains, “we are working in the laboratory on a grams scale but we are confident that it will be possible to expand the process on a large-scale”. Nevertheless, Oro points out, “it isn’t the solution for climatic change as we are speaking about very different magnitudes: the amount of carbon dioxide that we can transform is nothing compared to the amount of the emissions liberated by the burning of fossil fuels. But it could be a contribution”.

The research has been funded by the Spanish Ministry of economy and Competitiveness, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) from the European Union and the Aragon Government.

Ralte Lalrempuia, Manuel Iglesias, Víctor Polo, Pablo J. Sanz Miguel, Francisco J. Fernández-Álvarez, Jesús J. Pérez-Torrente, Luis A. Oro. Effective Fixation of CO2 by Iridium-Catalyzed Hydrosilylation. Angewandte Chemie. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201206165