Emerging Tech

Converting carbon dioxide to fuel

Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories are developing a reactor that could ultimately result in production of fuel from carbon dioxide.

Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories are developing a reactor that could ultimately result in production of fuel from carbon dioxide.

An excerpt from TechnologyReview:

The device uses a two-stage thermochemical reaction to break down carbon dioxide to produce carbon monoxide, says Nathan Siegel, a senior member of technical staffat Sandia's Solar Technologies Department and one of the researchers developing the technology. "Carbon dioxide is a combustion product, so what we're doing is reversing combustion," he says. The carbon monoxide can then readily be employed to produce a range of different fuels, including hydrogen, methanol, and gasoline, using conventional technologies.

The cyclical process consists of a reduction of carbon dioxide to make carbon monoxide, which could then be used to generate fuel.

It may take up to five years for the complete development to take place, but the result could possibly be the best way to reduce greenhouse gases, the cause of global warming.

17 comments
hoagies
hoagies

Actually the process is as 'old' as Methuselah... People are either ignorant, or forget.... Because gas companies in Europe used to distribute CO to 'cook' with!! The process was simple: 2C + CO2 => C + 2CO, when CO2 was passed over heated coal.... The remaining coal was then sold as 'coke', (or something), for people to heat their living rooms with... It was cheaper then 'real coal'; which people preferred!! Also: Some cars used to produce CO this way, to have cars run using wood, during the 'fuel starved' years of WWII, in Europe..... And also: It was reported that the Japanese used to power some of their military tanks, using wood this way, at the start of WWII, invading Indonesia, (or better the Dutch East Indies)... I know for sure that Jews in Holland killed themselves by sticking their heads into their 'kitchen ovens', in order to escape being sent to 'concentration camps' in Germany, or worse..... The only advantage of these modern days is: We may have nuclear energy to produce the heat required to 'fuel' this process; in the 'past' we had to burn something else to produce the heat to heat the coal... And, we have the Technology to produce 'larger' surface areas, to make the process 'more efficient', the way modern 'capacitors' do!! I personally can't think my way through, whether this reduces CO2 in the atmosphere.... Because, when we 'burn' this stuff later, we get: 2CO + O2 => 2CO2, with 'release' of energy..... However, from start to finish, we now 'wind up' with twice the volume of CO2; after all has been said and done!! If, (and only if), the resulting CO can be transformed into a 'solid product', like plastic, or building materials for houses, (or...???), we'll gain!!

royhayward
royhayward

C02 is first captured. Then converted to fuel. Then fuel is burned and CO2 is back in the atmosphere. "I personally can't think my way through, whether this reduces CO2 in the atmosphere" So it does not reduce the total C02 in the atmosphere, but it does not add new CO2 either. I think someone was comparing this to recycling pop cans. If you have 100 cans in the bin, and you recycle them back into pop in the fridge. then you drink them all and the are in the bin again. So there is no reduction of cans in the bin, but you avoided having 200 cans while still getting to drink pop. This is why I like this idea. The focus is not so much on environment but on economy. If the idea is, like so many are, focused on changing how much energy we consume. The it will alway fail to accomplish the goal.

hoagies
hoagies

From the reactions: 2C + CO2 => C + 2CO , when heated And when one burns: 2CO + O2 => 2CO2 Which exactly says that for every volume of CO2 one pumps in, one gets 2 volumes of CO2 out, while using O2.. In other words: One puts 1 part of elemental carbon extracted from the earth into the air, every time one burns!! The advantage as I see it: CO is very reactive to form solid products, fixating carbon... CO2 is not!!

royhayward
royhayward

CO2 + catalyst + heat = 02 and CO We aren't adding any new carbon to the system. "Within the Sandia reactor ... is a ring of a cobalt-ferrite ceramic material, which is essentially made up of iron oxide and cobalt. ..., heating it to around 1,500 ?C and causing it to give up oxygen." Here is the whole article: http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19909/ If we did it your way we would be wasting a lot of energy and would be better off just burning the carbon to get energy out, like burning coal. That is not what this is. This is taking an O off or CO2, and then using the resulting CO to make fuel. so we have one part C02 in and one part C02 out. Yes the energy to get the CO2 to produce fuel has to come from some where, that is your heat source, and like the article says can come from the sun or many other sources.

RealGem
RealGem

Imagine a day when the the process can be commoditized and is available to the consumer. At your home, you could use solar or wind power to create gasoline for your own use. Or, your vehicle re-processes it's own emissions to create more gasoline. That might seem far-fetched, but there are already people who generate their own electricity and even sell the excess back to the power company. I live in the North, and with only eight hours of dim sunlight per day in the winter, solar won't work. But it sure is windy here - I can't wait to have my own wind-powered generator. I've heard of start-up companies that are already doing this.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

The article says the cobalt-ferrite ceramic material gives oxygen. I suspect that it absorbs not O2 but monatomic O. It seems to me that would seem to have the potential to yield ozone during the reduction phase. Correct? This looks like worthwhile research. But for now that's all it is. Wait a few years.

wmlundine
wmlundine

...if this takes nukes no thanks.

RealGem
RealGem

The post says thermochemical, not thermonuclear. A small, yet significant, difference.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

This was brought up at the right time. I just got "Christmas at Ground Zero" shoved into my head -- LOL BTW, it is a Weird Al song, funny too!

Photogenic Memory
Photogenic Memory

Apologies for the Spanish lesson. However, Carbon-Monoxide is very dangerous. It so dangerous becuase your body loves it! It loves it becuase carbon-monoxide(meaning one atom) bonds to the iron in your blood cells easier than oxygen and carbon-dioxide(meaning two atoms). This technology is cool and I hope it spreads out into tons of different combustion applications. Definitely good for the environment!

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

but used as raw material to react with other chemicals such as hydrogen or hydrocarbons. and yes it is very deadly due to red blood cells afinity for it.

drowningnotwaving
drowningnotwaving

Now, can someone turn the air-con back onto full? It's hot in here!

j-mart
j-mart

The end result of burning any fuel is that energy is produced and carbon dioxide is one of the by products. There must be an energy input to reverse the process. The natural way carbon dioxide is removed is by plants taking in carbon dioxide grabbing the carbon for their growth and releasing the oxygen back into the atmosphere, using energy from the sun for this process. If would become pointless if we needed to burn fuel to provide the energy required

Dr Dij
Dr Dij

in doing so you eliminate more CO2 than caused by the extra (oil) energy needed to scrub it. if it took 20% more energy to create CO2 scrubbers (a german company has shipping size containers that get CO2 straight out of the atmosphere for example) but you reduced CO2 100% then certainly it DOES take extra energy but it DOES ALSO remove the CO2. And CO2 producing fuels are NOT the only possible source of energy to scrub either plant exhausts or the atmosphere in general with the CO2 magnet fabrics. THe CO2 capture actually has very good uses: if injected into oil wells for example, where very little of it will ever escape back to the atmosphere, it forces oil and nat gas out of the well, boosting production. And as for other uses, you use plastic (analagous to fuel) bottles. They turn into trash (analagous to CO2). Many companies take the plastic bottles and recycle them. into either new plastic bottles, or other products, and that takes energy and is not pointless. If burning fossil fuel to create fuel from CO2 uses less fuel than does burning fossil fuel to create gasoline it makes sense. (yes, they have to burn some fossil fuel to create gasoline, both in the plant and producing electricity to fuel the refinery) and they may be able to use another non fossil fuel energy source in which case burnable hydrocarbons are formed with NO fossil fuels at all in the mix during recycling, only the original CO2 out of the fossil fuel from smokestack capture, and that can be from the atmosphere instead. In the end, recycling the Co2 is elegant, balances the equation. Currently, just like landfills, we just dump and dump gigatons of CO2 yearly, equivalent to approx 5% of the amount already in the atmosphere, each year. You can't cr*p in your backyard forever and expect to see green lawn there, unless you recycle the stuff, break it down and reuse it. CO2 itself needs a hydrogen source to make fuel but any organic matter or water has hydrogen. The process itself is very similar to current refineries, in that varying temp and pressure dictates what mix of burnable gases, diesel type oils or burnable hydrocarbons like methanol are produced.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Lets not forget that CO (not Co2) is actually FAR more harmful as an emission to US than Co2 is. CO does not break down at altitude, it is heavier than air and lingers at street level. Co is the cause of many sicknesses and deaths each year. One concern I would have is how efficiently the Co byproduct is used, if there is any CO leaked into the air etc. CO is one emission that Canadian emissions control standards closely monitor in vehicle exhaust, as it is so lethal at the street. The use of Co2 to create CO is not a real concern to me, as if energy is used efficiently, it is worthwhile. Co2 emissions from a vehicle are due to inefficiency of the engine, thus it is a severe problem. This is something I'd really have to look into again as the system/product is developed. At this point it is a viable and sensible concept, however the article is very vague in many ways and certainly can't be used to come to a firm conclusion on whether or not the technology is worth pursuing. SO many people complain about Co2, as that's what is in the news, not recognizing that Carbon Monoxide (the cause for carboxyhemoglobin or suffocation of the blood)is a major concern to humans, the focus is on plant life and global warming (which is important) but in that same respect, no attention is afforded to CO emissions. Just because we have CO detectors for our homes, motorhomes (if you don't have one GET one) and cottages, this does not mean that a very dire issue does not need attention too.

royhayward
royhayward

"The carbon monoxide can then readily be employed to produce a range of different fuels" so we won't be emitting it out as a byproduct. The Oxygen is the byproduct, and it is not very harmful. :)

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