A team of scientist has turned a waste product into fuel in relatively simple process, and it happened almost by accident as stated by ABC News.
The US Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists were running a solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water over a charged surface in the hopes of describing a reaction when they made their amazing discovery.
According to lead author, Dr. Adam Rondinone, they were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when the team realised that the catalyst was doing an entire reaction of its own.
The catalyst was the nanoscopic spikes of carbon, studded with copper nanoparticles, electrified to reverse the combustion process. Dr Rondinone said that they are like 50-nanometre lightning rods that concentrate electrochemical reactivity at the tip of the spike. The solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water turned ethanol with a yield of 63%. This kind of reaction usually results in a mix of several different products in small amounts.
Monash University energy conversion expert Shannon Bonke said there were several exciting elements to the US study.
First, the end result of ethanol, which is a relatively complex molecule, with two carbon atoms and a ready-to-use fuel is considered very hard to achieve.
Second, the research team used low-cost copper, nitrogen and carbon, rather than expensive and precious metals like platinum, which are usually required for these kinds of reactions.
Third, a pure fuel made in a laboratory was cleaner in many ways as compared to fossil fuels.
Bonke said the science was inching towards closed-loop, carbon neutral systems based on solar energy being stored as carbon-based fuels.
The technique that is relying on low-cost materials and an ability to operate at room temperature in water leads the US researchers to believe the approach could be scaled up for industrial applications.
Featured Image Credit: ABC News