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Earth Science

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

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 Immerman ( 2627577 ) on Thursday July 03, 2014 @10:28AM (#47376075)

    Sure we can - our current usage is rife with waste. We could easily cut US energy consumption by 50+% simply by wasting less energy, we'd only need to drop per-capita energy usage to levels comparable to such backwards wastelands as the UK and France - and even they've really only taken advantage of the low-hanging fruit so far.

    Meanwhile even at current energy consumption levels US per-capita energy consumption is 308 million BTU per year, or 247 kWh per day. At 5kWh per square meter of solar panel per day (a conservative number achievable almost anywhere with low-to-mid-range solar panels) that's only 49.5 meters of panels per person, or 532 square feet. A little high, but not unachievable.

    Meanwhile we've recently made some great breakthroughs in solar panel technology, for example discovering that panels made with relatively common and non-toxic magnesium salts can perform on par with our current best-of-breed panels based on gallium arsenide and other extremely rare and toxic elements. Let that hit mainstream and we can cut those panels to 266 sq.ft. Add in European-class efficiency and we'd only need 133 sq.ft. of solar panels per person. Eminently achievable - all we need is decent batteries for daily power buffering and we're set. And advances in virtually "immortal" ultra-high-power liquid metal batteries look quite promising, not to mention businesses like Aquion that are already scaling up production for grid-focused saltwater batteries. And if you happen to live in mountainous areas pumped water gravitational batteries are a moderately mature and inexpensive technology already, if not quite so efficient.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!