Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Recycling a Greenhouse Gas for High-Energy Fuel

A team of researchers at Penn State has come up with an ingenious method of turning captured CO2 into methane using the energy of the sun.

Fossil fuel use, ranging from electricity generating power plants to automobiles, pumps billions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually, changing the climate in ways that are likely to be detrimental to future generations.

The rising use of fossil fuels, driven by population growth and rising standards of living across the globe, adds to the urgency of finding a solution to the problem of rapidly increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas. At Penn State, a team of researchers led by Craig Grimes has come up with an ingenious method of turning captured CO2 into methane, a combustible fuel, using the energy of the sun.

Writing in Nano Letters (Volume 9, 2009, pp 731-737), Grimes and his team describe a highly efficient photocatalyst that can yield significant amounts of methane, other hydrocarbons, and hydrogen in a simple, inexpensive process. The team used arrays of nitrogen-doped titania nanotubes sputter-coated with an ultrathin layer of a platinum and/or copper co-catalyst(s). The titania captures high energy ultraviolet wavelengths, while the copper shifts the bandgap into the visible wavelengths to better utilize the part of the solar spectrum where most of the energy lies. In addition, the thin-walled nanotubes increase the transport ability of the charge carriers by reducing the chance for recombination of the electron with the hole.

The nanotube arrays were placed inside a stainless steel chamber filled with carbon dioxide infused with water vapor. The chamber was then set outdoors in sunlight; after a few hours the team measured the amount of CO2 converted into useful fuels. The results showed 160 µL of methane per hour per gram of nanotubes, a conversion rate approximately 20 times higher than previous efforts done under laboratory conditions using pure UV light.

“Copper oxide and titanium dioxide are common materials,” Grimes says. “We can tune the reaction using platinum nanoparticles or ideally other, less expensive catalysts.” Grimes believes that the conversion process can readily be improved by several orders of magnitude, which could make the process economically feasible.

“You could have a small scale solar condenser and a concentrated source of CO2 in a closed loop cycle to make a portable fuel. It’s a good way of storing energy for when the sun goes down,” he suggests. Inexpensive solar concentrators could improve the process, as the photocatalytic CO2 conversion appears to scale with the intensity of sunlight.

Capturing CO2 at source points, such as fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, etc.)-burning power plants, and turning it into a transportation fuel in a cheap, sunlight-driven process could dramatically improve the economics of CO2 capture. “Then maybe we could figure out how to capture and reuse the CO2 in our vehicles and none of it would go back into the atmosphere,” Grimes proposes.

Future research will look into increasing conversion rates by modifying the co-catalysts and changing the reactor design from a batch reactor to a flow-through photocatalytic design. “We are now reaching for low hanging fruit,” Grimes says. “There is plenty of opportunity for dramatic improvements.”

The article authors are Materials Research Institute scientists Oomman K. Varghese, Ph.D. and Maggie Paulose, Ph.D.; Thomas J. LaTempa, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering; and Craig A. Grimes, Ph.D., a professor of electrical engineering and materials science and engineering, as well as a faculty member in the Materials Research Institute at Penn State.

Walt Mills | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>