Scientists in Tennessee, USA, claim they’ve turned carbon dioxide into the fuel ethanol.
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) made the discovery by a fortunate accident.
Working on a process to discover how to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, the scientists hypothesised that it would be a multistep process involving many complex chemical reactions.
More like the discovery of penicillin than a true eureka moment, the whole process only required one step with a single catalyst.
The process involved adding “nano-spikes” of carbon and copper to the carbon dioxide, which transformed the greenhouse gas into ethanol.
Apart from being drinkable alcohol and a sanitiser, ethanol is also of interest as a renewable fuel source. Such as adding it to petrol/gasoline (or replacing it entirely), to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles, the greenhouse gas said to be the major factor in anthropogenic climate change.
The scientists have dubbed their discovery a “twist to waste-to-fuel technology”.
While the discovered process converts carbon dioxide into ethanol, which when burned as fuel emits more carbon dioxide, which could be reconverted back into more fuel, and so on, don’t expect this to be of a beneficent carbon-neutral version of Maxwell’s demon or a perpetual motion machine of some form.
Entropy with energy lost as heat almost always has the final say.
However, now that the process has been discovered it’s a question of developing it further to get it beyond the lab and into the everyday lives of people.