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Conversion of atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel at an industrial scale can actually change the present scenario of pollution in the world. The highest level of atmospheric CO2 in 4 million years was reported in the last month.
It seemed that there is no solution for decreasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and dropping to a safe level again. A recent discovery has given hope that the atmospheric CO2 can turn into fuel.
Let's check out the method that can turn CO2 into ethanol.
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The conversion can be achieved with the help of a single catalyst.
They implanted copper nanoparticles into nitrogen-laced carbon spikes measuring just 50-80 nanometers tall.
The catalyst successfully turned the solution of water containing CO2 into ethanol with a yield of 63%.
Adam Rondinone, from the US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory explained, "We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked. We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realised that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own."
Scientists were expecting to get less desired chemical methanol as the end product but ended up getting ethanol.
Some of these low demand products include methane, ethylene and carbon monoxide.
Ethanol is proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline. It is added to gasoline in order to reduce carbon emissions as per the Energy Policy Act and Renewable Fuels Standard.
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."
Researchers around the world have been searching for methods to turn CO2 into methanol, formate and hydrocarbon fuel.
According to the researchers, such high yields of ethanol were obtained due to nanostructure of catalyst. Rondinone explained, "By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want. They are like 50-nanometre lightning rods that concentrate electrochemical reactivity at the tip of the spike."
While there are many CO2 conversion projects that have given positive results in the laboratory, it would be too early to say anything about the actual results in the field.
Rondinone stated, "A process like this would allow you to consume extra electricity when it's available to make and store as ethanol. This could help to balance a grid supplied by intermittent renewable sources."