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Earth Science

Solar-Powered Electrochemical Cell Used To Produce Formic Acid From CO2 133

Posted by samzenpus
from the give-me-your-carbon dept.
Zothecula writes Rising atmospheric CO2 levels can generally be tackled in three ways: developing alternative energy sources with lower emissions; carbon capture and storage (CCS); and capturing carbon and repurposing it. Researchers at Princeton University are claiming to have developed a technique that ticks two of these three boxes by using solar power to convert CO2 into formic acid. With power from a commercially available solar panel provided by utility company Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), researchers in the laboratory of Princeton professor of chemistry Andrew Bocarsly, working with researchers at New Jersey-based start-up Liquid Light Inc., converted CO2 and water to formic acid (HCOOH) in an electrochemical cell.
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Solar-Powered Electrochemical Cell Used To Produce Formic Acid From CO2

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  • by kolbe (320366) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @02:44AM (#47374397) Homepage

    Why would you want to convert Carbon Dioxide into Carbon Monoxide?

    If not used immediately, Formic acid decomposes into carbon monoxide and water when exposed to air and heat. I wouldn't exactly call this a "game changer" unless the target of it all is to give everyone A) a lot of toilet bowl cleaner for cheap or B) a silent death.

  • by JPyObjC Dude (772176) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @03:23AM (#47374473)

    Formic acid can be stored and used in a fuel cell to have a very good solar storage fuel. No need to worry about CO if kept within this fuel cycle.

    Related Abstract: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content... [rsc.org]

  • Re:Efficiency (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ultranova (717540) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @04:02AM (#47374553)

    Claimed efficiency is only 2%, using PV panels. It would make more sense to just use the PV panels to replace coal fired plants for generating electricity.

    Suppose, however, that you could alter the chemistry to get oil? Even at 2% efficiency, we'd be looking at an infinite, carbon-neutral, enviromentally nondestructive alternative to oil shales and tar sands.

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @04:38AM (#47374611)

    The two dreams are:
    - A 3D printer that takes its ink from the atmospheric carbon.
    - A solar panel that produces lipids, sugars and proteins.

    So... a tree.

  • Re:The point (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Thursday July 03, 2014 @08:27AM (#47375459) Homepage Journal

    We've already got CO2 scrubbing technology that is remarkably effective: photosynthesis in plants. In terms of cost/benefit, this method is by far more efficient than the one talked about in TFA. Plus there are numerous advantageous byproducts, like grains, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.

    What we could use is a more effective means of sequestering the carbon in vegetation materials. Charcoal is great for sequestration: chemically inert for thousands of years, and with microscopic structures that promote good soil ecologies, much like coral promotes sea life. Currently most methods of producing charcoal return about 2 parts of carbon to the atmosphere for every part that is potentially sequestered ("potentially" since it needs to be put in soil or water and not in the barbeque).

    "Biochar" [wikipedia.org] is the word to google on for more about this form of carbon sequestation.

  • Re:Solar efficiency (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Immerman (2627577) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @10:41AM (#47376841)

    Actually there are - it fluctuates of course, but there is a normal range of fluctuation - ice cores going back over the last million years show fluctuations between about 175 and 275ppm, with the highest peaks occasionally, and very briefly, just breaking 300ppm. At ~400ppm we're currently almost as far beyond the highest historical peaks as the peaks are above the troughs.

    But that's neither here nor there - reread that sentence, I was discussing the density of *grazing animals*, not CO2. Since the ecosystem changes occurred at a nearly geological pace as our ancestors gradually spread across the globe it didn't cause significant changes in atmospheric CO2 levels - but intelligently reversing desertification could potentially increase biomass dramatically in a matter of decades, stripping an enormous amount of CO2 from the atmosphere in the process, in addition to producing enormous numbers of well-exercised meat animals and converting vast near-desert regions into thriving grasslands. And as long as we stay away from the serious methane producers like cows that should be a dramatic win for slowing global warming, possibly even reversing it for a while. Of course we'd still need to cut way back on fossil fuel use, but we could potentially buy ourselves several decades, possibly as much as a century, of extra time to do so, which should be enough for new energy technologies and market forces to start implementing a long-term solution in a far less painful fashion.

Power corrupts. And atomic power corrupts atomically.

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