The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) has discovered a way to turn every man, woman, child and flatulent cow on the planet into an energy source – and eliminate the threat of CO2-caused climate change in the process. The discovery could also land the researchers a Nobel Prize, an MIT-educated physicist tells MRCTV.
The process emulates photosynthesis, the DOE explains in its announcement of the scientific breakthrough:
“In a new study from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers were able to convert carbon dioxide into a usable energy source using sunlight. Their process is similar to how trees and other plants slowly capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, converting it to sugars that store energy.”
“The setup for the reaction is sufficiently similar to nature that the research team was able to construct an "artificial leaf" that could complete the entire three-step reaction pathway.”
Argonne researchers use a metal compound called tungsten diselenide as a “catalyst” to turn infamous carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide – eliminating its threat to the climate while creating a new source of energy:
“While plants use their catalysts to make sugar, the Argonne researchers used theirs to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. Although carbon monoxide is also a greenhouse gas, it is much more reactive than carbon dioxide and scientists already have ways of converting carbon monoxide into usable fuel, such as methanol.”
The diselenide catalyst even overcomes the fatal flaw of other methods of converting CO2 into fuel, which expend more energy than they create, the study finds:
"Making fuel from carbon monoxide means travelling 'downhill' energetically, while trying to create it directly from carbon dioxide means needing to go 'uphill.'"
“The reaction occurs with minimal lost energy -- the reaction is very efficient.”
A Nobel Prize awaits the researchers if the new process is successfully implemented, MIT-educated Physicist Dr, Thomas P. Sheahen tells MRCTV.
“Getting rid of Carbon dioxide has become almost the ‘holy grail’ of that kind of science. We really want some kind of process for that to be a big success,” Dr. Sheahen says. “Whatever research team is successful in developing ‘artificial photosynthesis’ will almost surely win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry someday.
Dr. Sheahen says the researchers’ claims sound both plausible and promising – but, it’s a long road through the “valley of death” for projects like this to come to fruition:
“It's not clear how the Oxygen atom is stripped off the CO2 molecule (leaving behind carbon monoxide), but what the authors say happens certainly makes sense. Also, their mention of a 100- hour lifetime for the catalyst is encouraging.”
“Scientists, engineers and business investors often refer to the "valley of death": that arduous stretch of development to get from successful laboratory R&D to a practical commercial product. That span of effort takes both time and money, and an awful lot of fine scientific ideas fall by the wayside en route.”
So, while he considers the findings impressive, Dr. Sheahen tells MRCTV he isn’t prepared to risk any of his hard-earned cash backing the technology - just yet:
“We shall see how this technology pans out. I definitely find this encouraging, and I wish them well, but I'm not ready to become an investor.”