Using sophisticated materials and ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, a research team headed by Lund University in Sweden has shown how solar power can transform carbon dioxide into fuel. The finding might be a critical component in future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the environment. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The amount of sunlight that reaches Earth in one hour is nearly equivalent to humanity’s annual energy use. In addition, our worldwide carbon dioxide emissions are rising. Many scientists are interested in harnessing the sun’s energy to collect greenhouse gases and convert them to fuel or another useful molecule. However, although no adequate answer has yet been found, an international research team has recently identified a viable path ahead.
“The research employs a mix of materials that collect sunlight and transform carbon dioxide with its energy. We have mapped precisely what occurs in that process using ultra-fast laser spectroscopy “Tönu Pullerits, a chemical professor at Lund University, agrees.
The researchers have explored a porous organic substance termed COF — covalent organic framework. The material is well-known for its ability to absorb a lot of light. They converted carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide without using any more energy by adding a so-called catalytic complex to COF.
“Two electrons are required for the conversion to carbon monoxide. When we observed that blue light photons produce long-lived electrons with high energy levels, we realized that we could simply charge COF with electrons and complete a process “Kaibo Zheng, a chemical professor at Lund University, agrees.
What are the implications of these findings? Tönu Pullerits and Kaibo Zheng believe that the finding will be utilized to construct bigger units that can be used on a worldwide scale to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to fuel or chemicals with the assistance of the sun in the future. That might be one of several options for dealing with the current climate catastrophe.
“With two electrons, we’ve finished the first two stages. Many more processes must be completed before we can consider a carbon dioxide converter, and our first two must almost certainly be improved. However, we have discovered a highly promising path to follow “Tönu Pullerits comes to a conclusion.