Scientists Accidentally Discover A Process To Turn Co2 Into Fuel

from kottke

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have stumbled upon a process that uses “nanospikes” to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, a common fuel.

This process has several advantages when compared to other methods of converting CO2 into fuel. The reaction uses common materials like copper and carbon, and it converts the CO2 into ethanol, which is already widely used as a fuel.

Perhaps most importantly, it works at room temperature, which means that it can be started and stopped easily and with little energy cost. This means that this conversion process could be used as temporary energy storage during a lull in renewable energy generation, smoothing out fluctuations in a renewable energy grid.

This sounds like a big deal…is it now possible to limit the effects of climate change by sinking carbon while also placing less dependence on fossil fuels? Here’s the Oak Ridge press release. That this news is almost a week old already and we haven’t heard more about it makes me a bit skeptical as to the true importance of it. (Of course, CRISPR is potentially a massive deal and we don’t hear about it nearly enough so…)

Update: A relevant series of tweets from Eric Hittinger on “why creating ethanol from CO2 cannot solve our energy or climate problems”. Wasn’t fully awake when I posted this apparently because, yeah, duh. (via @leejlh)

More here.

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One Comment

  1. Despite the fact that this discovery and this article is almost three years old, I still have never heard of it to this day. I am usually pretty good at keeping up to date with current events, and have been reading the news daily for years, and this has never even been a footnote on anything I’ve read, nor it doesn’t seem to have gotten any attention after 2017. At first I thought that perhaps this discovery was disingenuous, and the results over-promised. However, this was a study funded and supervised by the DOE at one of their laboratories (I learned this from the press release link included in the article), indicating it was federally sponsored, so one would assume there is some degree of legitimacy to these results and should be taken with a bit more trust than if it was a unsupported claim in a random tweet. My other thought was that since this was funded by the DOE, I wouldn’t be that surprised to learn that this discovery was suppressed and purposefully prevented from being publicized mainstream, which has happened before to other scientific discoveries that were not directly beneficial to the federal government’s agenda, since the current federal policy seems to be moving more and more toward supporting fossil fuels and oil drilling and less focused on renewable energy. It is frustrating to see articles like this, knowing that so many innovative scientific discoveries have been created that we likely just don’t hear about, discouraging further innovation and positive progression towards more renewable energy, which is something our planet is in desperate need of. However, I thought this article and the concept of turning CO2 into usable fuel is a really promising idea, especially considering how cost effective the video seems to describe it as. I hope that eventually we will see a more mainstream implementation of this idea and others like it to work toward combating our planet’s fuel crisis.

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