Breakthrough – Researchers show how solar power can convert carbon dioxide to fuel.
Using sophisticated materials and ultrafast laser spectroscopy, a research team led by Lund University in Sweden has demonstrated how solar power can transform carbon dioxide into fuel. The finding could be a critical component in future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the environment. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The amount of sunlight that reaches Earth in one hour is nearly equivalent to humanity’s annual energy use. In addition, our worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are rising. Many scientists are interested in harnessing the sun’s energy to collect greenhouse gases and convert them to fuel or another useful molecule. However, while no adequate solution has yet been found, an international research team has recently identified a possible path ahead.
“The study uses a combination of materials that absorb sunlight and use its energy to convert carbon dioxide. With the help of ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, we have mapped exactly what happens in that process”, says Tönu Pullerits, a chemistry researcher at Lund University.
COF – covalent organic framework – is a porous organic substance explored by researchers. The material is well-known for its ability to absorb a lot of light. They converted carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide without using any additional energy by adding a so-called catalytic complex to COF.
“The conversion to carbon monoxide requires two electrons. When we discovered that photons with blue light create long-lived electrons with high energy levels, we could simply charge COF with electrons and complete a reaction”, says Kaibo Zheng, a chemistry researcher at Lund University.
What are the implications of these findings? Tönu Pullerits and Kaibo Zheng hope that the discovery will be used to construct larger units that can be used on a worldwide scale to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to fuel or chemicals with the help of the sun in the future. That could be one of several options for dealing with the current climate catastrophe.
“We have completed two initial steps with two electrons. Before we can start thinking about a carbon dioxide converter, many more steps need to be taken, and probably even our first two must be refined. But we have identified a very promising direction to take”, concludes Tönu Pullerits.
Link to the article published in Nature:
Source: Lund University