It’s a Holy Grail idea: Take carbon dioxide from the combustion of fossil fuels and run it through a chemical reaction that transforms it magically back into useful hydrocarbons. It would be a virtuous cycle, a carbon-neutral closed loop that could dramatically reduce greenhouse gases. If it works.
The chemistry to do such a thing has been known for a while, and involves a reaction called hydrogenation—swapping the oxygen atoms in the carbon dioxide with hydrogen atoms, to yield hydrocarbons like methane (the primary ingredient in natural gas).
So far it’s been nowhere close to economic, as the reactions have required special catalysts using expensive precious metals like platinum that could only be made in reactor vessels containing volatile gases operating at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit.