Scientists use renewable energy to turn CO2 and water into synthetic fuel

While we work towards a future where all vehicles are electric, it’s important we find greener ways to fuel the combustion vehicles in service today. With that in mind, researchers have figured out a way to make fuel for gas-burning cars using renewable energy.

The novel process involves combining carbon dioxide and water into the fuel methanol (the more infamous form of the good old ethanol or “common booze”) using electricity generated from the ambient temperature change over the course of a day.

As The Drive notes, Methanol can be converted into gas in a sustainable way by hydrogenating CO2 out of the air. The problem, however, is that current techniques require incredibly high temperatures — between 400-500 degrees Fahrenheit — which make it a very energy-intensive process and thus defies the entire purpose of it being sustainable.

The advantage of the novel method though lies in its use of 2D nanoplates made of perovskite bismuth tungstate — a material that enables the process to harness the energy generated by changing temperatures between day and night time. Eventually, this process is able to create methanol between a range of 60 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This efficient, cost-effective, and environmental-friendly pyroelectric catalytic CO2 reduction route provides an avenue towards utilizing natural diurnal temperature-variation for future methanol economy,” write the authors of the paper, which was published in Nature Communications.

While this cleanly-synthesized methanol will still burn and give off greenhouse gases when it’s used, it does offer a more sustainable alternative to regular oil, preventing the extraction of fossil fuels from the ground in the first place.

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