On October 12, a group of scientists may have discovered a possible new breakthrough in fighting climate change. In a new paper published by Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee, researchers Adam Rondinone, Yang Song, and Dale Hensley detailed new findings about carbon dioxide. “We're surprised but very happy about the attention,” said Rondinone.
Through the use of a carbon copper and nitrogen combination, scientists have discovered a way to reverse carbon combustion using a catalyst spike of carbon, copper, and nitrogen. From there, the researchers were able to create small chemical reactions in carbon dioxide, resulting in 63 percent of the CO2 being converted into ethanol.
With this cost-efficient method, CO2 that has been dissolved in water can be changed into ethanol, which can then be used as fuel. The new discovery could be useful for making grids more efficient by giving energy companies a way to store their excess power. It could also be used to store excess energy from renewable sources such as solar panels and windmills.
The scientists were attempting to study a more complicated reverse combustion reaction when they accidentally activated the carbon. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” said Adam Rondinone, one of the lead researchers.
This isn't the first time reverse carbon combustion has been talked about. In 2013, it was the main topic in that year’s American Chemical Society meeting, a group that meets to discuss important chemical discoveries. They saw it as a way to reverse engineer climate change.
The experiment was done at a microscopic level, so it’s unclear how this would work on a large scale. But considering the effect carbon dioxide has on our atmosphere, this avenue should be explored.