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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday September 12 2017, @04:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the were-they-in-Denver? dept.

It may sound too good to be true, but TU Delft PhD student Ming Ma has found a way to produce alcohol out of thin air. Or to be more precise, he has found how to effectively and precisely control the process of electroreduction of CO2 to produce a wide range of useful products, including alcohol. Being able to use CO2 as such a resource may be pivotal in tackling climate change. His PhD defence will take place on September 14th.

[...] For mitigating atmospheric CO2 concentration, carbon capture and utilization (CCU) could be a feasible alternative strategy to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The electrochemical reduction of CO2 to fuels and value-added chemicals has attracted considerable attention as a promising solution. In this process, the captured CO2 is used as a resource and converted into carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), ethylene (C2H4), and even liquid products such as formic acid (HCOOH), methanol (CH3OH) and ethanol (C2H5OH).

The high energy density hydrocarbons can be directly and conveniently utilized as fuels within the current energy infrastructure. In addition, the production of CO is very interesting since it can be used as feedstock in the Fischer–Tropsch process, a well-developed technology that has been widely used in industry to convert syngas (CO and hydrogen (H2)) into valuable chemicals such as methanol and synthetic fuels (such as diesel fuel). The figure attached describes these three processes and the way electroreduction of CO2 could potentially close the carbon cycle.

Beer, from air. Others use barley as an intermediary.

Publication: Aula TU Delft, PhD defence Ming Ma, Selective Electrocatalytic CO2 Conversion on Metal Surfaces.


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  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Tuesday September 12 2017, @10:31AM (2 children)

    by Arik (4543) on Tuesday September 12 2017, @10:31AM (#566665) Journal
    Yeah that's great, just a few little issues though.

    See what you're talking about is light helium. It's one of the lightest things that exist in the universe. Light, in this case thought not always, meaning 'having very little mass.' Now if you'll remember you're physics E=MC^2. So in a fuel, all other things being equal, we'd prefer heavy, but ok, minor quibble, moving on. It's a naturally occurring, stable isotope of helium and there's no need to go to the moon to get it. There's speculation that it could be used to fuel a fusion reactor without neutrons, and that's wonderful! I hope it works and it sounds like it might. But that doesn't change the situation I was talking about much at all, it has no direct effect. Cheaper energy can reduce the costs of virtually everything, of course, but that's the best case here - cheaper energy.

    ^3HE is believed to be more abundant on the Moon than on Earth, and that's sparked all kinds of naïve and illiterate "science journalism" but it doesn't really mean much. On Earth it's supposed to be ~.000137% (I hate to even write that number, it reeks of false precision) of the Helium, which is only 5.2ppm in the atmosphere, and IIRC most of the usable Helium on the planet was extracted from natural gas. On Luna there's little atmosphere and the best I know no signs of natural gas, and the 'helium reserves' that the Chinese want to claim consist of traces clinging to loose shale and rocks near the surface.

    You don't burn the kind of calories it takes to escape orbit just so you can scrape rocks for helium and ship it back to Earth mate. Not even for the highest grade helium.
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  • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Tuesday September 12 2017, @02:06PM

    by c0lo (156) on Tuesday September 12 2017, @02:06PM (#566732) Journal

    So in a fuel, all other things being equal, we'd prefer heavy, but ok, minor quibble, moving on.

    You mat want to recheck your physics: mass defect and binding energy [wikipedia.org] is in no relation to do with the original weight of the nuclei undergoing fission or fusion.
    If you fuse two heavier-than-iron nuclei, you'll need to spend energy and you'll obtain something that will likely shed protons as fast as they can (no natural elements with more than 94 protons can be naturally found on Earth)

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12 2017, @02:44PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12 2017, @02:44PM (#566752)

    > Now if you'll remember you're physics E=MC^2. So in a fuel, all other things being equal, we'd prefer heavy, but ok, minor quibble, moving on.

    I'm sure any day now you'll be announcing your matter-energy converter that makes E=mc^2 relevant for fuel :)