Here’s a good question for all you ecologists out there: what do we do with the carbon dioxide emissions after capturing them? As it frequently happens, MIT took up the challenge and came with a “golden”eff idea: a hybrid-copper-gold nanoparticle to transform CO2 into methane (CH4).
Now why is that important – coming up with methane? The answer lies in the fact that, after obtaining it from the replacement of oxygen with hydrogen, methane can successfully act up as fuel.
Copper, on the other hand, is the best choice when it comes to taking the catalyst that eats up the least amount of energy when converting carbon dioxide to methane. Great! so why can’t copper cope on its own, so to speak? Well, because copper oxidizes quickly (just think of the silver-green roofs that get patina layers all over them).
This is where gold comes into play: one can cover electrodes with these nanoparticles of copper and gold without any fear of oxidizing, even at low energies. The goal has been achieved by using as little as one third gold in the mix: by combining solutions of gold and copper nanoparticles, researchers got a red-brown solution, which acted as a basis for the extraction of the dark powder of hybrid gold-copper nanoparticles.
The only drawback is that gold is not exactly cheap, especially these days, but the investment is worth it: the coatings last longer and this solution itself is better than what has been practiced so far (storing the gas in the earth, which was risky, and converting it into carbonate, which wasn’t too efficient, especially since it used up all the oxygen).
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Did you figure out that this is a massive fail on the basis of the first law of thermodynamics (energy conservation). If all you do is recycle methane the reaction will be thermoneutral or worse depending on the energy cost for your hydrogen source which this has nothing to do with. That means that at best, and things are never at best, you STILL have to put in the same amount of energy that you get out.The only thing that CO2 cracking makes sense for is production of higher value hydrocarbons which stay buried (e.g. plastic/solvents) and fuel for motor vehicles and those have huge economic barriers as well as issues of volume.This is press release abuse at it's worst.