Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

Discussion in 'In the News' started by ALS, Oct 18, 2016.

  1. ALS

    ALS Super Moderator Staff Member

    The process is cheap, efficient, and scalable, meaning it could soon be used to remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

    The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

    The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.

    "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," said Adam Rondinone.

    Full Story:
    TheFordFamily and kbergene like this.
  2. kbergene

    kbergene Active Member

    Wow. Wow. Wow. Three cheers for Chemists!
  3. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    HI Al:


  4. rhwinger

    rhwinger Well-Known Member

    Wow, this could be a game changer.
    xcel likes this.
  5. thunderstruck

    thunderstruck Super Moderator

    Let's see how scaleable it winds up being first. This could be awesome, because no more diverting crops from food to fuel, and no more bitching from people like me about the ethanol mandate being thinly disguised government welfare for corporate farms.
    KenSoren, xcel and ALS like this.
  6. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    What I've gleaned from skimming the actual paper is that this process is a modified form of electrolysis. The water is saturated with CO2, and there is a specialized electrode, the catalyst. Turn on the electricity, and you get simple organic compounds as opposed to oxygen and hydrogen.

    This catalyst has surmounted the first obstacle of selectability. It makes mostly ethanol versus a mix of organic compounds. Many of those compounds are useful and valuable in their own, but small yields and the steps needed to separate them are a hurdle for economic viability. Tweak the catalyst and current in, and hopefully they'll get selectability for other compounds, like formic acid, methane, and small hydrocarbon chains *cough*precursers*cough*gasoline*cough*diesel*cough*

    But it still has the same issues electrolysis for hydrogen has; where does the electricity come from, and how will it compete with other sources for the same material? This might work out as gird level storage for excess renewables to be burned later in a turbine or fuel cell, or in making feedstocks more valuable than fuels.

    Panasonic has a group working on this, but they are focused on using solar energy directly. It's a two stage process; one cell photolyzes water for hydrogen, and that hydrogen is combined with CO2 in the next cell. They are making, mostly, formic acid.
    xcel likes this.
  7. NeilBlanchard

    NeilBlanchard Well-Known Member

    This is very good. But if you burn the ethanol, then it doesn't change the level of carbon dioxide in the air.
    xcel likes this.
  8. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    But you don't add to it if the electricity was a carbon free source.

    For actually reducing carbon in the atmosphere, you need to use this process for making raw materials for more permanent stuff, like plastic.
  9. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Super Moderator Staff Member

    Nano. Always a bad sign for commercialization.

    Ethanol's something that we already use in large quantities, is pretty safe, burns clean and can be used in ICEs. Has potential use for heating in EVs. Can be stored more easily than hydrogen or methane.

    Nice if it works, but I don't hold out much hope.

Share This Page