Researchers are working hard to find ways and possible solutions to generate energy and fuel sustainably, but aren't able to come up with practical solutions. However, it appears that a group of researchers at the Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering & the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are actually on to something big.
It has been reported that the team of these researchers is working to come up with a power plant that would have the ability to arrest the carbon dioxide that it emits, rather than releasing the toxic gas in the open. It is learnt that the researchers have discovered metal carbide nanoparticles which can turn the CO2 emissions into fuel. This will lead to mass-production of the particle at a very effective cost and have the slightest impact on the atmosphere. This will also help in combatting the greenhouse emissions.
The report was first published in the Journal of American Chemical Society and stated that the main objective behind the project is to capture CO2 emissions, right from the source where the emissions have been created and transform the same into fuel that can be utilised further. The nanoparticles function as a catalyst to cause this reaction.
Noah Malmstadt, a professor at the University of Southern California Mork Family Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, explained that they are turning the carbon dioxide from carbon-oxygen bonds to carbon-hydrogen bonds, meaning that they are turning it back into hydrocarbons. He further explained that the hydrocarbons are basic fuel stock which can be turned into fuel stock chemicals like methane or propane. Alternatively, they can serve as the basis for chemical synthesis, which can be the building blocks for making more complex chemicals.
The process of making the catalyst used to require a lot of energy which ultimately had a more negative impact on the environment than any benefits.
However, Noah and his team follow a different approach where they are applying a millifluidic reactor process. It is a very small-scale chemical reactor that does not have much impact on the environment and produces nanoparticles at 300 degrees centigrade in order to make the particles smaller and ideal for converting CO2 to hydrocarbons. Noah revealed that moving to a process like this also helped them in saving costs as compared to a large-scale chemical reactor. He also mentioned that in terms of sustainability in use of energy, and the amount of time it takes to produce the materials, it is much lower for the millifluidic routes than it is for traditional approaches to creating these chemicals.
(with inputs from agencies)