In the presence of nickel and other metal catalysts, CO2 and ethylene gas form an acrylate precursor configured in a five-membered ring. The challenge has been to crack that ring open, allowing a carbon-carbon double bond to form, creating acrylate. Lewis acids do the trick. Credit: Berkskoetter lab/Brown University
Researchers at Brown and Yale have demonstrated a new “enabling technology” that could use excess carbon dioxide to produce acrylate, a valuable commodity chemical involved in the manufacture of everything from polyester cloth to disposable diapers.