Splitting Carbon Dioxide Offers Viable Solution to Climate Change

What will the future of green energy be? Scientists and engineers have been looking into ways to make solar cells more efficient and  therefore more sustainable. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of New Hampshire (UNH) have proposed a simple and cheap process to transform carbon dioxide into useful chemicals.

“We propose a simple, two-step chemical process called carbon dioxide anaerobic digestion (COG),” said Richard Lunt, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at MIT and a researcher with the U.S. Department of Energy. “The carbon dioxide produced will be used by the two enzymes in the process to produce hydrogen and oxygen, which can be used in fuel cells.”

Lunt and his collaborators have been working on finding ways to extract hydrogen from carbon dioxide. They found that the process can be scaled up. Lunt says this process could have a major impact on the renewable energy industry.

“We plan to use the carbon dioxide anaerobic digestion process for fuel cells,” Lunt said. “It is a simple process that can be scaled up in other industries as well. It is easy to implement, has a low cost, and it can be used in a variety of ways. It has many potential applications, from transportation to manufacturing.”

Lunt said the process used for converting CO2 is similar to the process used in food production. In this process, the carbon dioxide is converted into a solid by soaking the air. The process is inexpensive, making it a good candidate for use in carbon capture technologies.

Lunt and his colleagues believe the process has the potential to reduce carbon emissions by about 20 percent.

“The process will be used in a variety of ways, including as an energy storage device,” Lunt said. “We envision that a combination of the process and a carbon capture plant will be able to work in tandem to produce hydrogen.”

The research team has a patent and is also supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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