We all know that recycling is good for the environment – we dispose our plastic bottles to proper containers, use shopping bags for multiple trips to the store and do other things in order to reduce our waste. However, there are ways to use what is already wasted and recycle it. Scientists from the University of Toronto developed a new efficient way to recycle CO2, which is causing a greenhouse effect.
Scientists thought of and developed a method in which CO2 can be converted into a substance used to make fuel. People have been trying to achieve that for a very long time, but only now science has succeeded by the means of nanoengineering. This technique uses electricity (produced in a clean way, of course) and converts CO2, which is harmful for the environment, into CO, which can be used to manufacture fuels, such as methanol, ethanol and diesel. Therefore, this process deals with two different problems – it recycles harmful CO2 while at the same time helps humanity to meet its fuel needs.
Technology, used in this process, is very complex. Scientists had to make extremely small gold “nanoneedles”, which at the tip are 10,000 times smaller than a human hair. When a small electrical bias is applied to these nanoneedles, CO2 gets attracted much quicker and is quicker transformed into CO – this conversion takes less time than in any other currently known catalyst.
This achievement brings commercial electrolysers, capable of taking CO2 from the atmosphere and recycling it, closer to reality. However, scientists are not going to stop here and they are going to develop a system, which recycles CO2 directly into a useable fuel. Professor Ted Sargent, leader of the study, said: “Solving global energy challenges needs solutions that cut across many fields. This work not only provides a new solution to a longstanding problem of CO2 reduction, but opens possibilities for storage of alternative energies such as solar and wind”.
The problem with renewable energy is that not always it is being made when it is needed the most, which calls for efficient storage solutions. Therefore, this method kills three birds with one stone – it allows using this surplus energy to make fuel, helps complying with humanity’s need for fuel and, most importantly, deals with greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.