Carbon dioxide to monoxide process now affordable at industrial scale

A leap in technology could usher in a new stage in the carbon neutral race as the harmful gas can now be converted to fuel and other useful chemicals in huge quantities.

Scientists at the University of Waterloo, Canada, are heralding a major breakthrough with a new technology that can affordably transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into carbon monoxide (CO), to be used for fuel and a number of chemicals. Most significantly, it can do this at industrial scale. 

While this isn’t the first time conversion has been possible, the latest reactor designs yield 10 times the amount of CO compared to existing small scale technologies, which have been limited to laboratory testing. The new approach effectively means individual cells responsible for the reaction can be stacked together in any number, to provide solutions at an industrial level. Therefore, this offers an economically viable solution that can be installed on-sites such as factories emitting high levels of CO2.

Electrolyzers in the system employ a new form of electrode and liquid based electrolyte, which is saturated with CO2. An electrochemical reaction is then  used to convert the CO2 into CO using water and electricity. At the time of writing, information is scarce on how many resources are required – a significant question given the world is currently struggling with an energy crisis, and rapidly waking up to the reality of depleting water sources. 

‘This is a completely new model for a CO2 reactor. It makes the whole process economically viable for industrialization and can be customized to meet specific requirements,’ said Dr. Zhongwei Chen, Canada Research Chair in Advanced Materials for Clean Energy and Chemical Engineering Professor at Waterloo. ‘If we really want to make a difference by reducing emissions, we have to concentrate on reducing costs to make it affordable.’

Earlier this week, the global aviation industry made a pledge to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

Image: University of Waterloo


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