Many thanks to SEMI for hosting the SVEC Open House at their headquarters in Milpitas.
Keynote Talk “Beyond Oil and Gas: The Methanol Economy”
by Dr. G. K. Surya Prakash
George A. and Judith A. Olah Nobel Laureate Chair in Hydrocarbon Chemistry and Professor of Chemistry at USC
Methanol, a liquid at ambient temperature, is preferable to low volumetric energy density hydrogen gas for energy storage and transportation. It is also an excellent drop in fuel for internal combustion (gasoline) and auto-ignition (diesel) engines. It is an excellent fuel for direct oxidation fuel cells. Dimethyl ether (DME) derived from methanol is a high cetane diesel substitute and also could replace liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Methanol is a convenient feedstock to produce ethylene and propylene that can be converted to synthetic petrochemical products. Chemical recycling of excess carbon dioxide formed from human activities, natural and industrial sources, or even from the air can be converted to methanol via capture followed by reductive conversion with hydrogen. Any available energy source (preferably alternative energies such as solar, wind, geothermal, atomic, etc.) can provide the needed energy for generating hydrogen. Direct electrochemical reduction of CO2 is also possible. Methanol, presently produced from fossil fuel based syngas (mixture of CO and H2), can also be made by direct oxidative conversion of natural gas or other methane sources. Even coal and biomass can be converted to methanol through syngas. The Methanol Economy concept that was jointly developed with the late Nobel Laureate colleague, George A. Olah is expected to solve the energy and material problems of the world in the long run and at the same time address the issue of global warming due to increased CO2 emissions by excessive fossil fuel use by efficient “Carbon Neutral Energy Cycles.”