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CO2 Splitter May Unlock New Fuel Source

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Carbon dioxide is considered a major reason for global warming. The element jeopardizes people’s health, threatens national security, and endangers basic human needs. Yet, it also holds great promise as a fuel of the future.

Splitting carbon dioxide is a win-win situation from an environmental point of view.

National Geographic has mentioned that carbon dioxide is considered to be a pollutant when expelled from vehicles and power plants. However, researchers are working on using carbon dioxide to fuel vehicles and power plants. The problem has been the challenge of splitting the carbon dioxide in an economical manner.

Joeri Rogelj, a Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, says “it has become very clear that if you want to stabilize warming at any level, you have to start talking about phasing out CO2”.

Carbon Dioxide Splitting

The noise and fury around carbon dioxide prompted a group of Swiss scientists to take action. The Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) developed a new method, which splits carbon dioxide with an efficiency rate of 13.4%.

EPFL is a research university and institute located in Switzerland. It specializes in engineering and natural sciences. They developed a carbon dioxide splitter, which consists of copper and tin.

The splitter has an atomic layer of tin in order to trap the energy that would be lost if copper is utilized as an electrode. It also has a thin membrane between the cathode and anode to improve the reaction.

The splitter can open windows to solving the problem of storing energy from renewable sources by turning it straight into liquid fuel.

The Process of Splitting Carbon Dioxide

The process of splitting is efficient and carbon-neutral. It is already a well-known method of producing fuel without increasing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. CO2 is split into oxygen and carbon monoxide.CO2 splitting may become a new fuel source

Carbon monoxide can be incorporated with hydrogen to create synthetic carbon-based fuel. CO2 is taken out of the atmosphere without being put back in, which produces clean fuel.

Splitting carbon dioxide is a win-win situation from an environmental point of view.

Jingshan Luo, a Chemical Engineer at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, says “the work sets a new benchmark for solar-driven CO2 reduction”.

Hydrogen Makes Progress as New Fuel Source

Hydrogen is another element commonly suggested as a fuel source. When hydrogen is burned for fuel, it leaves no dangerous side effects. It is renewable, abundant, non-toxic and more powerful than fossil fuels.

Even with all these attributes, hydrogen is still not efficient. Hydrogen takes a lot of energy to extract in pure form, making it very expensive. In addition, the challenge of building the infrastructure for hydrogen stations is one of the obstacles that hinders innovation and research.

Even though hydrogen energy’s natural effects are minor, in order to make it and use hydrogen as a fuel actually requires energy inputs from fossil fuel companies at this time.

The Quest for CO2 Splitting for New Fuel Source

There are numerous companies and research institutions trying to solve the problem of splitting CO2 bonds efficiently. X Prize Foundation even made an incentive for it. A $20 million prize for groups that by 2020 come up with innovations to turn CO2 into useful products.

  • Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis – It is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub that looks for a cost-effective method to produce fuels using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. The program has a budget of $112m over five years.
  • University of California, San Diego – The university has recently presented that light absorbed and converted into electricity using a silicon electrode can help drive a reaction that splits carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon monoxide.
  • Sandia National Laboratories – It is run and directed by the National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia. Researchers in SNL are working to apply concentrated sunlight to drive high-temperature thermal reactions that yield carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and oxygen; from CO2 and water.
  • Solar Fuels Institute – The researchers of the institute are taking a modular approach to put the existing technologies for splitting water and carbon dioxide together. They are trying to complete a $250,000 prototype by the end of this year.

The method of splitting carbon dioxide is a bold and efficient way to solve global warming. The new system may make a mark on society. The idea of CO2 splitter is a bold innovation that can unlock a new fuel source.


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