Powering your car with the air you
breathe may sound supernatural, but Joel Rosenthal, a chemist at the
University of Delaware, is actually working to transform carbon dioxide
(CO2), a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, into gas for your car and
clean-energy future fuels.
Such a feat could
help reduce the rising CO2 levels implicated in global warming and also
offer a new method of renewable energy production.
Rosenthal and his
team are designing electrocatalysts from metals such as nickel and
palladium that will freely give away electrons when they react with
carbon dioxide, thus chemically reducing this greenhouse gas into
energy-rich carbon monoxide or methanol.
Besides its use in
making plastics, solvents, carpet and other products, methanol fuels
race cars in the United States and currently is being researched as a
hydrogen carrier for fuel cell vehicles.
Carbon monoxide is an important
precursor to liquid hydrocarbons in the energy arena, in addition to its
applications as an industrial chemical for producing plastics to
detergents to the acetic acid used in food preservation, drug
manufacturing and other fields.
reduction of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide is an important
transformation that would allow for the mitigation of atmospheric CO2
levels, while producing an energy-rich substrate that forms a basis for
fuels production,” Rosenthal says.
“The chemistry we’re
doing is energetically uphill—it’s an energy-storing process rather
than a downhill, energy-liberating process.
“And our goal is to make liquid fuel renewably from wind and solar sources, not from typical fossil fuel bases,” he added.