Scientists say we’re on the cusp of a carbon dioxide–recycling revolution

Mar 30, 2018

By Matt Warren

Every year, the billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) we release into the atmosphere add to the growing threat of climate change. But what if we could simply recycle all that wasted CO2and turn it into something useful?

By adding electricity, water, and a variety of catalysts, scientists can reduce CO2 into short molecules such as carbon monoxide and methane, which they can then combine to form more complex hydrocarbon fuels like butane. Now, researchers think we could be on the cusp of a CO2-recycling revolution, which would capture CO2 from power plants—and maybe even directly from the atmosphere—and convert it into these fuels at scale, they report today in Joule.

Science talked with one of the study’s authors, materials scientists and graduate student Phil De Luna at the University of Toronto in Canada, about how COrecycling works—and what the future holds for these technologies. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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4 comments on “Scientists say we’re on the cusp of a carbon dioxide–recycling revolution

  • The fickleness of daily sunshine in agriculture is smoothly integrated by photosynthesis. Net growth produced depends on the net insolation, and is not badly affected by the hour to hour variability.

    Creating large scale businesses that operate in this same fickle-resource-integrated way is the perfect complement to renewables. Now we can create the super abundance of solar PV and wind turbines that of themselves more nearly meet our electricity requirements. The net production of hydrocarbon feedstock can be entirely as fickle as agriculture, only this time if using electro-catalysis, fickle wind can be roped in as well. Off course many other processes might make use of fickle power in this way. Algae production is one such, desalination, even immersion heating in larger storage tanks at home, vertical farms.

    This has always been on the cards, but the big issue is conversion efficacy, moles per Joule. Why do they never ask the important questions?.

    Incidentally, given the new trend to huge wind turbines off-shore, with capacities increasing with the square of their linear geometry and functioning over a much higher range of wind speeds, both lower and higher we might see, this variation on photosynthesis make Wind Farms ever more attractive and ever more like farms.

    https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/3/8/17084158/wind-turbine-power-energy-blades



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  • phil rimmer #1
    Mar 31, 2018 at 5:24 am

    Incidentally, given the new trend to huge wind turbines off-shore,
    with capacities increasing with the square of their linear geometry
    and functioning over a much higher range of wind speeds,

    There are physical limitations on the diameter and revs of a wind turbine.

    One limiting factor in turbine design, is that the tip speed must be less than the speed of sound to prevent sonic boom s from damaging following blades.

    Turbines must also be spaced apart (10 times their height?) to prevent turbulence from one affecting others.



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  • That’s about right on spacing, though the spacing factor does diminish a little with hub height. Off shore the cost of land isn’t factored the same way and there is possibly less need to compromise on spacing, as happens onshore, to value optimise power, though connection costs could be compromised.

    Interestingly if this latter is an issue a proposal from about ten years ago to use two hub heights in a farm might be particularly useful with the mega height turbines.



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