Ethanol (the alcohol) is one of the most talked about alternative for the fossil fuels. For thousands of years, alcohol has been produced from yeast. This way of using biological cells to make alcohol is not generally considered non-viable. Thats because we spend more energy than what we get.
Carbon Nano Tubes (CNTs) are tiny tubes made only of carbon atoms. These are too tiny that the properties of chemicals are often altered when they are in these tubes.
CNTs were found to catalyze the production of ethanol from carbon monoxide and hydrogen. CNTs act either as catalysts or catalyst additives.
In China, its been proven that CNTs loaded with Rhodium nanoparticles as reactors to convert the gas mixture of CO and Hydrogen into ethanol. Dr. Xinhe Bao and his team of researchers in Nano and Interfacial Catalysis Group in Chinese Academy of Sciences observed that the redox properties of metal nanoparticles are modified when they are inside CNTs.
Syngas (a mixture of CO and H2 in the ratio of 1:2) when introduced into the CNT loaded with Rhodium- Manganese catalyst, gets converted to acetaldehyde, acetic acid and ethanol very quickly. The Chinese scientists suggest that this is due to
1) a host guest interaction between CNT and Rhodium - Manganese nano particles.
2) stringent size restriction of metal particles inside CNT.
3) high affinity of H2 to the inner surfaces of CNT.