Mother nature is smiling. In a major twist to waste to fuel technology, scientists have accidentally discovered a technology that has the potential to avert climate change and help restore the ecological balance of the planet.
Scientists working at the the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee, USA, have discovered a chemical reaction that turns CO2 into ethanol. Through an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper, scientists have been able to convert the harmful greenhouse gas into useful fuel.
In a press release published on the institution's website, Adam Rondinone, lead author of the team’s study, said, “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked... We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realised that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”
The team of scientists have published their findings in ChemistrySelect, a science journal, where details of the process are explained. The process relies on low-cost materials and can be carried out at room temperature. The researchers hope that the process will soon find industrial usage. “Ethanol was a surprise — it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst,” Adam said.