Scientists have accidentally turned carbon emissions into renewable by reverting it to a fuel.
This experiment is the brainchild of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US. They made use of complex nanotechnology techniques in turning the dissolved gas into ethanol.
The paper was led by Dr Adam Rondinone which was first published in the journal ChemistrySelect. The high carbon emissions in industries is an environmental hazard and the researchers thought ways to prevent the gas from going into the atmosphere.
“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.
“You can use it [ethanol] in the current vehicle fleet, right now, with no modifications.
“Carbon dioxide is a problem right now. If we can use it, then we’re preventing it from going into the atmosphere.”
An electric current and a catalyst made from carbon, copper and nitrogen were used to create a reaction.
Although the research was intentional, the result was accidental. The researchers were hoping to turn carbon dioxide into methanol instead it resulted in ethanol.
Dr Rondinone said:
“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.
“Ethanol was a surprise. It’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.”
The researchers are now looking to improve the efficiency of the process and finding more about the properties of the catalyst.
The researchers believe this could make changes in industries where the use of these gases is rife. Also, due to the materials used in reversing the combustion process being cheap, they believe this is achievable.
The research was partly funded by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science and published in ChemistrySelect.