Futuristic fuels could replace our current supplies, recycling what the latter’s combustion produces most: carbon dioxide. And synthetic diamond exposed to light may hold the key
Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed. The principle underlying modern chemistry seems to support efforts by scientists to fight CO2 emissions.
European researchers are investigating new possible approaches to decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, with a view to exploiting them. If successful, the experimental technology will help fight climate change and provide a more sustainable supply of raw materials for certain industrial branches.
Scientists are trying to get fuels by absorbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere with synthetic diamonds
The vision is to produce useful chemicals from the carbon dioxide treated in water or in other green solvents, with the aid of sunlight. The resulting substances could be used to get fuels for cars, or obtain other compounds such as methanol, formic acid or methane, necessary to the chemical industry that, right now, relies on petroleum or natural gas.
“That would help use less fossil sources and recycle carbon dioxide closing, in a way, the circle,” says Anke Krueger from the Institute for Organic Chemistry of Julius-Maximilians University in Wuerzburg, Germany. She coordinates the FET-funded DIACAT project (Diamond materials for the photocatalytic conversion of CO2 to fine chemicals and fuels using visible light).
The milestone of the whole process is synthetic diamond, a very resistant material produced artificially. When the electrons are excited during a chemical reaction inside the diamond, they get high levels of energy and transform CO2 into fine chemicals.
This solution can be seen as a man-made alternative to the photosynthesis of plants, which reintroduce carbon dioxide into the biochemical cycle. Only the photocatalytic system is different.
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Research projects in this story
The DIACAT project aims at using man-made diamonds and light to enable conversion of CO2 into useful chemicals and futuristic fuels. This technology would be able to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and allow scientists to recycle the carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of current fuels.