If researchers can a way to convert atmospheric carbon dioxide into usable fuel – and if that’s achievable at an industrial scale – it would, literally, change the world. Just last month, scientists declared that we hit the maximum levels of atmospheric CO2 in 4 million years, and it’s not going to drop ever. Meaning humans will never be able to drop to ‘safe’ levels again. So what if we, somehow, turn CO2 into a fuel source, this will not only decrease the carbon level but also help us to stop releasing more CO2 into atmosphere.
This idea is, no doubt, amazing. And that’s what scientists have achieved. Researchers have developed a process that can accomplish this goal with simply a single catalyst. One of the team members, Adam Rondinone, from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said:
We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked.
Rondinone and his associates had made a catalyst using carbon, copper, and nitrogen, by implanting copper nanoparticles into nitrogen-laced carbon hooks measuring just 50-80 nanometres tall. (1 nanometre = one-millionth of a millimetre.)
So when they used an electric current of just 1.2 volts, the catalyst transformed a solution of CO2 dissolved in water into ethanol, with a yield of 63%.
This result was a complete surprise for the team, because it’s efficiently reversing the combustion procedure consuming a very modest amount of electricity, and furthermore, it was able to do this while reaching a relatively high production of ethanol – they were guessing to end up with the considerably less desired chemical, methanol.
So the team got practical quantity of ethanol, which the US needs billions of gallons of each year to add to gasoline.
Rondinone said in a press statement:
We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel. Ethanol was a surprise – it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.
The reason, as explained by researchers is that they were able to accomplish such high yields because the nanostructure of the catalyst was easy to operate and regulate to get the wanted results.
The outcomes have been issued in ChemistrySelect.