WEB DESK: Scientists have invented a new method for turning carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel that can efficiently store energy in fuel cells.
The fuel could one day be the future of green transport, cramming more energy into the tank than the same volume of hydrogen while also serving as a building block for a whole chemical production industry.
CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas and is one of the primary drivers of climate change. When emitted into the atmosphere, it stops heat from Earth escaping into space. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, levels of atmospheric CO2 have tripled—a shift attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. While other greenhouse gasses are more efficient at trapping heat—methane, for example—CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for far longer. Earlier this year, it was announced that atmospheric CO2 levels had increased to 411 parts oer million—the highest monthly average ever recorded.
Finding a way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere had been the focus of many scientists around the world—and numerous proposals for how do do this have been made. More recently, researchers have been finding ways to turn CO2 into something useful: fuel.
Formic acid is a promising fuel carrier, but producing it at the required levels is costly and inefficient. Researchers led by Chuan Xia, from Rice University, Texas, have now developed a reactor that uses CO2 to produce this liquid fuel at concentrations that could become commercially useful.
The reactor had an energy conservation efficiency of 42 percent—meaning almost half of the energy produced can be stored in the compound as a fuel. It ran for 100 hours with little to no sign of degradation—an important factor in scaling up technology like this.
The team says that in the future, it will be able to produce reactors that produce even high concentrations of formic acid and that the machine could be adapted to produce other fuels, including acetic acid, ethanol or propanol.