Scientists in Tennessee have accidentally discovered a method to convert carbon dioxide, one of the most serious causes of climate change, into ethanol for use as a fuel for internal-combustion motors. This newfound ability to recycle the greenhouse gas could potentially help slow global warming.
“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, an author on the research group’s study journal, in a press release. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”
Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that by putting copper and carbon together to create nanospikes on silicon, exposing the matter to carbon dioxide dissolved in water, and electrifying it, the solution was transformed into a surprisingly-highly-concentrated blend of ethanol.
“By using common materials, but arranging them with nanotechnology, we figured out how to limit the side reactions and end up with the one thing that we want,” Rondinone said.