MIT, Harvard Engineers Develop Efficient Process To Convert CO2 Into Fuel

MIT, Harvard Engineers Develop Efficient Process To Covert CO2 To Fuel - Carbon Herald

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced Monday a new development in the field of CO2-to-fuel conversion that has emerged from the collaborative efforts of MIT and Harvard University researchers.

This innovative approach directly and efficiently transforms carbon dioxide (CO2) into formate, a versatile material usable as a fuel in a manner similar to hydrogen or methanol, facilitating electricity generation via fuel cells, according to the announcement.

Image: Shuhan Miao, Harvard Graduate School of Design via MIT

Potassium or sodium formate, which is already produced at industrial scales and commonly utilized as a de-icer for roads, has non-toxic, non-flammable, and easy-to-store properties, remaining stable in conventional steel tanks for extended periods.

The research, led by MIT doctoral students Zhen Zhang, Zhichu Ren, and Alexander H. Quinn; Harvard University doctoral student Dawei Xi; and MIT Professor Ju Li, has received support by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and has been detailed in an open-access paper in Cell Reports Physical Science.

The entire procedure, from capturing CO2 to electrochemically converting it into solid formate powder, was successfully demonstrated at a laboratory scale.

The team envisions the scalability of this approach, offering emissions-free heat and power to individual homes and broader industrial or grid-scale applications.

“This is for community or household demonstrations, but we believe that also in the future it may be good for factories or the grid,” Zhang said.

Relevant: MIT Announces Innovative Design To Produce Green Hydrogen From Solar

In contrast to conventional CO2 conversion methods, which often involve a two-stage process with low efficiency, the newly developed process achieves a conversion rate of over 90%, MIT said.

It avoids the need for an inefficient heating step by initially converting CO2 into liquid metal bicarbonate, which is then electrochemically transformed into liquid potassium or sodium formate using low-carbon electricity sources, such as nuclear, wind, or solar power.

The resulting solution can be dried to produce a highly stable solid powder that can be stored for years or even decades.

The newly developed process boasts several improvements, including a balanced chemical design to maintain steady-state conversion and the introduction of a “buffer” layer to prevent unwanted side reactions.

Furthermore, a specialized fuel cell optimized for formate fuel use has been designed, enabling the stored formate particles to be dissolved in water and used as needed.

Read more: More Efficient Carbon Capture Method Revealed By MIT Scientists

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