Pennsylvania State University researchers found out a way to transform the messy CO2 from the atmosphere into burnable gas, with the help of the Sun. They made use of nanotechnology for this matter, and their results showed a 20 times yield, compared to other findings.
The research led by Craig Grimes, used a photocatalyst to react with the light, and the most proper one was titanium dioxide, or titania.
Several experiments have been made in the past using titania, but with no interesting results, despite the researchers’ struggles in experimenting with various forms, such as nanoparticles, pellets, and multi-film layers.
Craig Grimes used 140 micrometers-long and 115 nanometers-wide titania nanotubes, and enriched them with nitrogen particles. To increase their output even more, they scattered an ultra-thin platinum layer and/or copper, using as “cocatalyst” nanoparticles on the array’s surface.
Their final product has 2 square centimeters, with several samples created for the purpose of experimentation.
Here’s how they experimented: they made two reaction chambers, provided with a window at their top, to let in sunlight. After loading one sample into each of the chambers, they created a vacuum, and sealed them. Next, the researchers pumped CO2 through a water tank (probably using this method to humidify the CO2, flushing it through the intake and outtake valves for 10 minutes.
After leaving the samples 2.5 to 3.5 hours in full sunlight, they analyzed the the chambers’ interiors, and revealed high amounts of methane. Other gases were ethane, propane, butane, pentane, hexane, and others in very small concentrations. Comparing to previous alike experiments, Grimes concluded that the rate of hydrocarbon production rate was 20 times higher, and thought that a homogeneous distribution of the two catalysts (titania and copper) could increase the results even more.
Now, the following problem arises: if we convert CO2 into methane and burn it again, don’t we get the same amount of CO2 back? We’re not gaining anything from here, except maybe for the process of producing titanium dioxide, that may also produce CO2 on the way (if you know exact numbers, please comment). On the other hand, the good thing is that we’re recycling even the all-feared CO2.