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Direct CO2 to dimethyl ether

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Technology Description

Dimethyl ether (DME) is used in the chemical industry and as an aerosol propellant, and its role as fuel is being investigated. At ambient conditions it is a gas, and has similar handling requirements to propane. DME can operate in compression ignition diesel engines (with some adjustments in the fuel system to operate on DME), could replace LPG (blends up to 20% generally require no modifications) or be used as a feedstock for different chemicals. Currently, DME synthesis is based on two routes: the initial conversion of syngas to methanol and its subsequent dehydration to DME, or the direct synthesis of DME from syngas in a single reactor. Research seeks to replace the syngas with CO2 from CCUS and hydrogen through demonstration projects. Direct CO2-to-DME requires improved bifunctional catalysts to promote first the hydrogenation of CO2 to methanol and then methanol dehydration to DME, and the development of techniques for in-situ removal of water to increase the conversion rate.

Relevance for Net Zero

DME produced from low-emission sources could be used as fuel in sectors that are difficult to electrify as well as a chemical feedstock.

Key Countries

Netherlands

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