Scientists at MIT have managed to identify and overcome a major hurdle in the conversion of CO2 into fuel and other useful products.
Up until this moment, many such processes that appeared to be successful in labs had failed outside of them, in scaled-up formats.
However, this new research may provide the answer as to why exactly the chemical conversion of CO2 has failed thus far.
Namely, it turns out that the depletion of CO2 gas right beside the electrodes used to catalyze the conversion process is to blame.
And now that the MIT researchers were able to pinpoint the culprit, they were also able to offer a solution for what has proven to be a bottleneck in scaling the conversion of carbon dioxide.
What was the problem in the CO2 conversion?
The team found that they can overcome this obstacle by pulsing the electric current on and off at certain intervals, which would provide enough time for the CO2 gas to build up to the necessary levels around the electrodes.
These findings may very well be able to help advance the development of various useful products and materials from CO2 conversion systems, providing a much-needed tool for effectively tackling the climate crisis.
And as expressed by one of the researchers, CO2 mitigation is, in fact, currently one of the most important challenges society is facing.
Other directions, such as carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) have certainly enjoyed the lion’s share of attention in terms of research and investment.
However, the conversion of CO2 into ethanol, methane and other compounds may represent a very promising avenue, as these compounds can serve as precursors to useful polymers.
The full study was published in the Langmuir journal by postdoc Álvaro Moreno Soto and other members of the MIT team.