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Copper oxide and sunlight converts carbon dioxide to methanol

Copper oxide and sunlight converts carbon dioxide to methanol
A schematic illustration of the two-step synthesis of CuO-Cu2O hybrid nanorod arrays. Image from the University of Texas at Arlington

Copper oxide nanowires and sunlight are the key to transforming carbon dioxide into liquid methanol fuel.

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Researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a way to convert greenhouse gasses associated with climate change into a useful product.

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They have coated the walls of copper oxide (CuO) nanowires with crystallites made from another form of copper oxide, Cu2O . The nanowires are then submerged into a water-based solution rich in carbon dioxide. When the entire solution in exposed to sunlight, a photoelectrochemical reduction is triggered and methanol is produced.

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Methanol is a cleaner burning alternative to fossil fuels and can be used in power generation as well as vehicle fuel. It is also used in a wide variety of chemical processes, including the manufacturing of plastics, adhesives and solvents and wastewater treatment.

“As long as we are using fossil fuels, we’ll have the question of what to do with the carbon dioxide,” said Krishnan Rajeshwar, interim associate vice president for research at U.T. Arlington and a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“An attractive option would be to convert greenhouse gases to liquid fuel. That’s the value-added option,” he noted.

While there have been other methods to convert carbon dioxide to methanol, these require the use of a co-catalyst and must be conducted at high operating pressures and temperatures. Many also use toxic or rare elements such as cadmium or tellurium.

The photoelectric method devised by Mr. Rejeshwar and his team is cheaper and simpler, able to generated methanol with a 95 percent electrochemical efficiency and avoiding excess energy input. – EcoSeed Staff

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