A breakthrough technology at the University of Illinois, Chicago, has seen the ability to convert carbon in the air, including carbon dioxide, into workable, liquid fuel.
The conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbon fuel uses only sunlight and the solar cell, developed by researchers at the school.
"The new solar cell is not photovoltaic – it's photosynthetic," said Amin Salehi-Khojin, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UIC and senior author on the study, in a statement. "Instead of producing energy in an unsustainable one-way route from fossil fuels to greenhouse gas, we can now reverse the process and recycle atmospheric carbon into fuel using sunlight.”
The solar cell produces Syngas, a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be converted into diesel or other hydrocarbon fuels. By using a nanoflake tungsten diselenide, the process was able to be sped up by 1,000x and made 20x cheaper, making it viable as a fuel creation source.
"The new catalyst is more active; more able to break carbon dioxide's chemical bonds," said UIC postdoctoral researcher Mohammad Asadi, first author on the paper.
It's a very exciting time, as carbon re-capture is one of the primary ways to reduce green house gases. Not only does this pull it out of the air, but it nullifies the need to drill more out of the ground.