Researchers want to make large “solar panels” that absorb CO2 and convert it into fuels and chemicals.

At present, there is a huge amount of CO2 in the atmosphere due to human activity. And because of this high concentration of greenhouse gases, our planet is warming up rapidly. Countries are currently doing their best to limit and reduce emissions. The aim is for carbon emissions to be reduced by around 30 percent by 2030. Nevertheless, these efforts are not yet fully bearing fruit. And that is why new ways and methods to remove CO2 from the atmosphere are desperately needed.

One way to do that is to capture carbon. Technologies for this have been in circulation for more than ten years. Carbon is trapped in deep, underground chambers. And that is of course not ideal. “Carbon conversion can be a good alternative,” argues researcher Jun Hang. “This allows us to generate methanol, for example; a useful substance for the production of fuels and chemicals. ”

CO2 concentration

The amount of CO2 in our atmosphere is currently towering. In fact, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has never been this high in the last for three million years. The average global temperature has never exceeded the pre-industrial level by more than 2 degrees Celsius in the last three million years. But if we do nothing to stop climate change, it will happen within fifty years.

Photosynthesis method
In a new study, researchers have developed a new carbon capture method. And this goes a step further than just storing the greenhouse gas in underground rooms. The team wants to capture CO2 and then convert it into raw materials that can then be used to make fuels and chemicals. The researchers were inspired by leaves for this process. “By drawing inspiration from leaves and plants, we have developed an artificial” photosynthesis method, “said Huang.

How does it work?
It sounds promising. But how does it work exactly? “We have built carbon microplates to simulate photosynthesis,” Huang explains. These plates contain small “pores” that absorb CO2 and water. “Once carbon dioxide and water have been absorbed, a chemical process takes place that combines both compounds and converts them into hydrocarbon; an organic compound that can be used for the development of fuels, pharmaceuticals, agricultural chemicals, and clothing. ”

Although the researchers in the study developed small microplates, it is intended that their technology will be scaled up in the future. “Our CO2-absorbing plates may be small, but our goal is now to make large panels,” says Huang. “These are similar to solar panels that can be used by industry to absorb and convert large amounts of CO2.” In the next phase of the study, researchers want to look for ways to scale up their small microplates. “We will now focus on a large-scale catalyst and design a reactor with which we can do the conversion.”

The study is not entirely on its own. For example, more scientists are currently looking for ways to convert CO2 and other greenhouse gases into a commercially useful composition. Not so long ago, for example, researchers presented a way to convert CO2 into the odorless gas carbon monoxide; an essential ingredient for all synthetic fuels and plastics. Another team also succeeded in developing manipulated bacteria that can convert greenhouse gases into chemical compounds in a particularly effective way. These can then be used for an endless series of commercial and industrial products. It is good news for our climate. Because all these techniques have the potential to reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration and to tackle the current climate problem.