A research team from Lund University, Sweden, have demonstrated that it is possible to convert Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into fuel, by utilising advanced materials and ultra-fast laser spectroscopy.
The sunlight that hits Earth for approximately one hour corresponds to humanity’s total energy consumption for an entire year. Using the Sun’s energy to capture greenhouse gases, reduce the globe’s CO2 emissions, and convert it into fuel or another useful chemical, is a research focus for many scientists as they attempt to combat this growing issue. However, until now, there has been no success in this venture.
How did scientists make this breakthrough in converting CO2?
“The study uses a combination of materials that absorb sunlight and use its energy to convert carbon dioxide. With the help of ultra-fast laser spectroscopy, we have mapped exactly what happens in that process,” explained Tönu Pullerits, chemistry researcher at Lund University.
The researchers have studied a porous organic material called the Covalent Organic Framework (COF). This material is widely known for absorbing sunlight very efficiently, and by adding a catalytic complex to COF, they succeeded in converting carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, without the requirement of any additional energy.
“The conversion to carbon monoxide requires two electrons. When we discovered that photons with blue light create long-lived electrons with high energy levels, we could simply charge COF with electrons and complete a reaction,” commented Kaibo Zheng, also a chemistry researcher at Lund University.
How can these results be utilised in the future?
Researchers consider this study to be a breakthrough in reducing the levels of greenhouse gases—including CO2— in the atmosphere.
Pullerits and Zheng intend for their research to contribute towards future discoveries and can eventually be developed and utilised to develop larger units that can be used on a global level.
This means that eventually, with help from the Sun to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it into fuel or chemicals, this discovery can significantly aid in reducing the planets CO2 emissions and overcoming the climate crisis that the Earth is currently facing.
“We have completed two initial steps with two electrons. Before we can start thinking about a carbon dioxide converter, many more steps need to be taken, and probably even our first two must be refined. But we have identified a very promising direction to take,” concluded Tönu Pullerits.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.