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Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.
The finding is reported in the July 29 issue of Science and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. A provisional patent application has been filed.
Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once. A solar farm of such "artificial leaves" could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently.
"The new solar cell is not photovoltaic -- it's photosynthetic," says Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study.
"Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight," he said.
Date: July 1, 2014
Source: Princeton University
Researchers have devised an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. The transformation from carbon dioxide and water to formic acid was powered by a commercial solar panel.
Synthesized 'solar' jet fuel: Renewable kerosene from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide
Date: May 3, 2014
Source: ETH Zürich
With the first ever production of synthesized "solar" jet fuel, the EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has successfully demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide, therein potentially revolutionizing the future of aviation. This process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.
In the 1990s a graduate student named Lin Chao at Princeton University decided to bubble carbon dioxide into an electrochemical cell. Using cathodes made from the element palladium and a catalyst known as pyridinium—a garden variety organic chemical that is a by-product of oil refining—he discovered that applying an electric current would assemble methanol from the CO2. He published his findings in 1994—and no one cared.
But by 2003, Chao's successor in the Princeton lab of chemist Andrew Bocarsly was deeply interested in finding a solution to the growing problem of the CO2 pollution causing global climate change. Graduate student Emily Barton picked up where he left off and, using an electrochemical cell that employs a semiconducting material used in photovoltaic solar cells for one of its electrodes, succeeded in tapping sunlight to transform CO2 into the basic fuel.
Researchers reduce climate-warming CO2 to building blocks for fuels
Date:August 3, 2016
University of Toronto Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering
Turning carbon dioxide into stored energy sounds like science fiction: researchers have long tried to find simple ways to convert this greenhouse gas into fuels and other useful chemicals. Now, engineers has developed a technique powered by renewable energies such as solar or wind.