New Solar Capture Technique Converts CO2 Into Burnable Fuel

University of Chicago Engineers have built a new type of solar cell that would efficiently convert atmospheric carbon dioxide to fuel—and it achieves this by using sunlight as energy. In a recent science paper, Amin Salehi-Khojin, an engineer alongside his colleagues, described the new solar capture system. This new system can accurately turn CO2 into fuel at a cost that is relatively the same as the cost of producing gasoline. “Rather than producing energy in a divergent one-way route from rich fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, scientists can now reverse the process, recycling atmospheric carbon into fuel with the use of just sunlight,” according to Salehi-Khojin in the press statement. In other to make this system work, the researchers had to use a photosynthetic cell, rather than a conventional photovoltaic cell. Thus instead of converting the sunlight into electricity and storing that energy in battery cells, this new device converts the carbon dioxide into fuel. It does the work intended for plants. Instead of turning the fuel into sugar, the “artificial leaf” delivers synthetic gas “syngas,” in place of sugar. This is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The solar-produced gas will be burned directly, or changed into other types of fuel, such as diesel. To make this new process efficient, the researchers diverted their attention to a family of nano-structured compounds known as transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs). These compounds acted as active catalysts which broke carbon dioxide’s chemical bonds. Experiments revealed that this new catalyst is about a thousand times faster than traditional catalysts, and 20 times cheaper. In the near future, a solar farm would have the capability to send thousands of the “artificial leaves”, this would lead to reduction of a significant amount of CO2 from the atmosphere during fuel production. The researchers claim that the system would also work on small scales, and would even be useful on Mars since the atmosphere is made up mostly carbon dioxide.

Stock News USA, 30 July 2016 ; ;