Scientists Accidentally Finds a Way to Turn CO2 Directly into Ethanol

CO2 to ethanol

CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases. Instead of allowing the energy absorbed from the sun to re-radiate into space, these gases absorb it and  re-transmit it back to the ground, keeping the ground temperature a bit higher than it otherwise would be. Greenhouse gases – water vapor, CO2, methane and ozone in the atmosphere makes Earth habitable, without them, the earth Would Be one big refrigerator. Obviously, they are very important for our survival. However in the past 200 years humans have changed the composition of our atmosphere by increasing the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in it, as a result, increased the amount of heat that was trapped by the atmosphere. This is what causes the climate change we are facing today.

CO2 gas in atmosphereAccording to reports, we have hit the highest levels of atmospheric CO2 in 4 million years, and there’s no way back. But if CO2 can be converted to something useful and maybe stand a chance at slowing down the rate CO2 emissions. The good news is, this may very well be possible as some scientists have developed a process that can achieve this with a single catalyst.

CO2 emmissionAdam Rondinone, a member of the team from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory said:

“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked. We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”

Science Alert reports that the team had put together a catalyst using carbon, copper, and nitrogen, by embedding copper nanoparticles into nitrogen-laced carbon spikes measuring just 50-80 nanometers tall. (1 nanometre = one-millionth of a millimeter.)

When they applied an electric current of just 1.2 volts, the catalyst converted a solution of CO2 dissolved in water into ethanol, with a yield of 63 percent.

This result was surprising as this type of electrochemical reaction usually results in a mix of several different products in small amounts, such as methane, ethylene, and carbon monoxide – none of which are in particularly high demand.

Instead, the team of scientists got usable amounts of ethanol, which the US needs billions of gallons of each year to add to gasoline. The US is already blending most of its gasoline with 10 to 15 percent ethanol content.

See official press statement.

The team hopes it could be scaled up for industrial level use since the catalyst is made from inexpensive materials, and can operate at room temperature with modest electrical requirements.

So we keep our fingers crossed till this becomes applicable on a larger scale.

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Frederick Damasus is a tech enthusiast and blogger who has a passion for creativity and innovation. He is a self-taught graphic designer and currently delving into web design and development. He loves photography and volunteers his spare time to inspire children in orphanages through dance. He is a trained Petroleum Engineer but found himself in the AID/Development sector. He currently serves as the M&E/ICT Manager at the Center for Creative Development Strategies, an NGO based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria.

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