Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US used complex nanotechnology techniques to turn the dissolved gas into ethanol. Because the materials used are relatively cheap, they believe the process could be used in industrial processes, for example, to store excess electricity generated by wind and solar power.
The researchers had hoped the technique would turn carbon dioxide into methanol, but ethanol came out instead. Dr Adam Rondinone, lead author of a paper about the experiment that was published in the journal ChemistrySelect, said: “We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we are pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel. You can use it (ethanol) in the current vehicle fleet, right now, with no modifications. Carbon dioxide is a problem right now. If we can use it, then we’re preventing it from going back into the atmosphere.”
The team used a catalyst made from carbon, copper and nitrogen and an electric current was then used to trigger a reaction. They had expected the process to be much more complicated.