Chemists at the University of Illinois have successfully produced fuels using water, carbon dioxide and visible light through artificial photosynthesis. By converting carbon dioxide into more complex molecules like propane, green energy technology is now a step closer to using excess CO 2 to store solar energy ̵
Plants use sunlight to drive chemical reactions between water and CO 2 to create and store solar energy in the form of energy-tight glucose. In the new study, the researchers developed an artificial process using the same green light portion of the visible light spectrum used by plants during natural photosynthesis to convert CO 2 and water into fuel along with electron-rich gold nanoparticles that serves as a catalyst. The new results are published in the journal Nature Communications .
"The goal here is to produce complex liquid hydrocarbons from excess CO 2 and other sustainable resources such as sunlight," said Prashant Jain, a chemistry professor and co-author of the study. "Liquid fuels are ideal because they are lighter, safer and more economical to transport than gas, and because they are made of long chain molecules, contain more bonds, which means they pack energy closer."
In Jain's laboratory, Sungju Yu, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the study, metal catalysts use to absorb green light and transmit electrons and protons necessary for chemical reactions between CO 2 and water fill the role of the pigment chlorophyll. in natural photosynthesis
Gold nanoparticles work especially well as a catalyst, says Jain, because their surfaces interact positively with the CO 2 molecules, are effective at absorbing light and not decomposing or degrading like other metals that can easily act. .
There are several ways in which energy is stored in hydrocarbon fuel bonds released. The light conventional combustion method ends up producing more CO 2 – which is counterproductive to the concept of harvesting and storing solar energy in the first place, Jain says.
"There are other, more unconventional potential uses from the hydrocarbons created by this process," he said. "They could be used to drive fuel cells to produce electrical power and voltage. There are laboratories around the world trying to figure out how hydrocarbon-to-electricity conversion can be done efficiently," Jain said.
As exciting as the development of this CO 2 liquid fuel can be for green energy technology, the researchers recognize that Jain's artificial photosynthesis process is not nearly as effective as in plants.
"We must learn how to tune the catalyst to increase the efficiency of the chemical reactions," he said. "Then we can begin the hard work of deciding how to go about upscaling the process. And like any unconventional energy technology, there will also be many financial options for answering which needs to be answered."
Team achieves two-electron chemical reactions using light energy, gold
Sungju Yu et al., Plasmonic photosynthesis of C1-C3 hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide assisted by an ionic liquid, Nature Communications (2019). DOI: 10,1038 / s41467-019-10084-5
Artificial photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into liquid fuels (2019, May 22)
May 22, 2019
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