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It’s the reason why chemists envy green plants: by using photosynthesis, plants can easily fix the carbon dioxide that is so plentiful in air to make biomass, or organic compounds.
Chemists would also like to be able to simply produce carbon compounds out of CO2 from air. In contrast to the usual sources of carbon used today—fossil fuels and natural gas—carbon dioxide is a renewable resource and an environmentally friendly chemical reagent.
Unfortunately, its carbon–oxygen bonds are too strong to be broken easily. Researchers working with Yugen Zhang and Jackie Y. Ying at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology in Singapore have now developed a novel reaction scheme by which CO2 can be efficiently converted into methanol under very mild conditions. As reported in the journal Angewandte Chemie, it is based on an N-heterocyclic carbene catalyst and a silane as the reducing agent.