Formic acid has potential to power fuel cells for electricity generation and automobiles and as a precursor for other fuels and commodity chemicals, including polymers. Hydrogen will be needed for the conversion and would have to be sourced from elsewhere. But compared with using hydrogen alone or methanol, scientists believe formic acid has much greater potential.
Formic acid is an important chemical product as well as a major player in synthetic chemistry as an acid, a reducing agent, and a carbon source. Formic acid is currently used in a variety of applications including a hog feed additive, de-icing planes, in pharmaceuticals and rubber manufacturing.
Worldwide consumption of formic acid is about 400 000 tonnes/year. Demand for formic acid is growing at 4% yearly rate.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a new catalyst for the catalytic hydrogenation of carbon dioxide to formic acid with the best reported performance to date. Carbon dioxide and water are mixed with an organometallic complex which directly reduces carbon dioxide in water to form formic acid or alkali salt.