Could CO2 help solve our energy needs?

Scientists are developing scalable processes that convert CO2 into alcohol-based fuels. The process is seen as an alternative to sequestering carbon.

Carbon Dioxide has been much maligned for its role in climate change, but some scientists at Princeton University see it differently. They've devised a process to recycle CO2 into fuel stock for methanol to help meet the growing global demand for energy.

The process utilizes palladium, a semiconducting material that is found in solar cells, as an electrode to help convert CO2 into methanol. "We take CO2, water, sunlight and an appropriate catalyst [pyridinium] and generate an alcoholic fuel," Princeton chemist Andrew Bocarsly told Scientific American in an article published on Thursday.

The process was born out of a graduate student Lin Chao's research at Princeton University during the 1990's, but was then was forgotten for nearly a decade until Bocarsly and graduate student Emily Barton picked up the research again in 2003.

Bocarsly believes that the process is a more economical alternative than sequestering CO2 that it will also consume significantly less energy. That notion is shared by venture capitalists that have financed a start up called Liquid Light to commercialize the school's research.

A similar effort is underway at the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, a U.S. government agency that is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The project received funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The University of Colorado at Boulder and U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research are also researching solar-fuel generators, according to the article.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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