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Scientists from ETH Zurich and the French oil company Total have developed a new c atalytic converter for the production of methanol . This makes it possible to produce the chemical in an environmentally friendly way, namely from CO2 recycled from air and hydrogen obtained in a sustainable way. Methanol is regarded as a basic chemical and serves as the basis for fuels and many other chemical products. In addition, the chemical itself can be used as a fuel, in methanol fuel cells for example. Total intends to trial production of larger volumes using the new method in the coming year.

A few years ago, ETH Zurich had already unveiled a catalytic converter for methanol production based on indium oxide. But the indium oxide was not sufficiently active; such large amounts were required that the process would not have been cost-effective. Now the researchers have added a few palladium atoms to the crystal lattice of the indium oxide using nanotechnology, so that clusters form on its surface. This has made it possible to increase its efficiency significantly.