Scientists use copper to turn CO2 into sustainable fuel

Scientists use copper to turn CO2 into sustainable fuel

Scientists use copper to turn CO2 into sustainable fuel

Scientists have devised an approach where copper atoms help turn planet-warming carbon dioxide gas (CO2) into a sustainable fuel.

By shining light on an activated material, the team succeeded in generating methanol, which can replace fossil fuels.

The build-up of CO2 in the atmosphere is raising global temperatures and accelerating climate change.

A by-product of burning carbon-based fuels, CO2 can be cycled back into products. These products can be used again, setting up a circular economy around them.

However, these approaches require sourcing hydrogen gas, which also happens from fossil fuels, further increasing emissions in the process.

Photocatalysis and electrocatalysis can put abundant sunlight and water to use and convert CO2 into useful products. But the process is not very efficient.

So to enhance the process, researchers from the University of Queensland, University of Ulm, University of Birmingham, and University of Nottingham teamed up.

New photocatalyst for CO2 conversion

In photocatalysis, sunlight is beamed on a semiconductor material to excite the electrons. These electrons travel through the material and react with carbon dioxide and water to make products such as methanol.

Although many materials have been used to achieve this, researchers have sought materials that can efficiently carry charges.

They heated carbon nitride to maximize its properties for photocatalysis. Using magnetron sputtering, the team deposited copper atoms that intimately connect with the semiconductor. The whole process did not use a solvent.

“In our approach, we control the material at the nanoscale,” said Madasamy Thangamuthu, a research fellow at the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham.

“We developed a new form of carbon nitride with crystalline nanoscale domains that allow efficient interaction with light and sufficient charge separation.”

How did the new material perform?

“We measured the current generated by light and used it as a criterion to judge the quality of the catalyst,” added Tara LeMercier, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham who carried out the laboratory work.

“Even without copper, the new form of carbon nitride is 44 times more active than traditional carbon nitride.”


Adding just one milligram of copper to one gram of carbon nitride quadrupled the efficiency of the photocatalyst.

Instead of making methane — which is another greenhouse gas — the semiconductor began producing methanol, a valuable fuel, the researchers said in a press release.

“It is vitally important to ensure the sustainability of our catalyst materials for this important reaction,” said Andrei Khlobystov, a professor at the School of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham.

“A big advantage of the new catalyst is that it consists of sustainable elements – carbon, nitrogen and copper – all highly abundant on our planet.”

The invention is an important step in understanding photocatalytic materials that can aid CO2 conversion. It allows for the creation of selective and tuneable catalysts. These catalysts can be scaled up by making changes at the nanoscale.

The Metal Atoms on Surfaces and Interfaces (MASI) for Sustainable Future Program in the UK is working to develop catalysts using abundantly available materials such as carbon and nitrogen. The idea is to use these materials instead of rare Earth elements.

Source: Interesting Engineering

World’s First Neuralink User Plays Chess Via Thought After Brain Implant

Scientists use copper to turn CO2 into sustainable fuel

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Çok Okunan Yazılar