Written by Max Michalec, ESLLC 2016-2017
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee has accidentally found a way to turn CO2 into Ethanol. The process uses a cheap and scalable energy platform generating one of the most promising ways to reduce carbon dioxide in our atmosphere to date. The researchers discovered the catalyst for the reaction when they were testing what they thought to be the first step in a chain of reactions to get to a fuel source. The process involves sending an electric current through a silicon surface coated in nanoparticles of copper and carbon submerged in a bath of CO2 suspended in water. Nano technology allows for very precise reaction without creating chemical byproducts from the reaction as well.
The process can be conducted at room temperature using as little at 1.2 volts of energy, in the early stages of testing has had a yield of 63%. These add up to a very energy efficient process that can be conducted on an industrial scale. One possible use of this technology is as a way to turn excess power created by renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines that are unusable by our modern electrical grid into liquid fuel. This could be a breakthrough in how we store energy created by renewable energy sources that, at the same time helps reverse humans impact on our atmosphere.
Link to video of process: