University of Waterloo Unveils Innovative Process To Turn CO2 Into Clean Fuel

University of Waterloo Unveils Innovative Process To Turn CO2 Into Clean Fuel - Carbon Herald

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed an innovative process to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions into sustainable, clean fuel, which is expected to play a pivotal role in decarbonizing industrial emissions and enhancing both environmental sustainability and national economies.

Collaborating with the National Research Council Canada, which provided a grant of CA$160,000 (approx. US$116,000), the scientists set out on a mission to mitigate CO2 emissions, make decarbonization financially feasible, and incorporate renewable electricity to develop materials for zero-emission transportation fuels and chemical feedstocks.

The innovative process, honed over two years, involved synthesizing a copper-silver, single-atom alloy catalyst, which was then applied to an electrode in a flow reactor.

Afterwards, CO2 and water were introduced into the reactor, and with the application of electricity to the electrode, hydrocarbon and oxygen by-products were produced.

These by-products have different applications, for example ethanol can be used as a clean fuel and ethylene can be used to manufacture plastics, but more importantly they can divert, and thereby reduce, CO2 emissions, according to the announcement by the University of Waterloo.

This innovative approach stands out for its cost-effectiveness, as it utilizes abundant copper and single-atom silver, and it also exhibits superior electricity efficiency compared to other carbon-capture methods.

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Project leader Dr. Yimin Wu, a professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering at the University of Waterloo, emphasized the significance of this technology, stating that it would make carbon capture more economically feasible to adopt and would help countries achieve their 2050 net-zero targets under the Paris Agreement.

Wu’s team achieved an impressive 94% “faradaic efficiency”—which measures the amount of electricity used to produce by-products in an electrochemical process— of carbon conversion to multi-carbon products.

Their research, entitled Cascade electrocatalysis via AgCu single-atom alloy and Ag nanoparticles in CO2 electroreduction toward multi-carbon products, was published in Nature Communications.

The team’s long-term goals include enhancing the stability of the reactor system to operate continuously for 1,000 hours.

Since commercial potential is already evident, the researchers intend to establish a spin-off company to further develop their technology, with a pending U.S. patent and early interest from investors, the University of Waterloo said.

Read more: 131 Companies Call For COP28 Agreement To Phase Out Fossil Fuels

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