Scientists have created a device that turns carbon dioxide into fuels
Scientists are betting on formic acid-based fuels that can hold nearly 1,000 times the energy of the same volume of hydrogen gas.
Do you know that a major problem with hydrogen-based fuels used in hydrogen fuel cell-cars is its volume? A large volume of hydrogen is required as fuel, which increases the weight of the vehicle and also the size of the tank. But scientists are betting on formic acid-based fuels that can hold nearly 1,000 times the energy of the same volume of hydrogen gas.
Researchers at Rice University lab of chemical and biomolecular energy have developed a catalytic reactor that takes carbon dioxide as feedstock and produces formic acid. According to one of the scientists involved in the project, formic acid is an energy carrier used as fuel in fuel cells. It can generate carbon dioxide that can be recycled again.
Formic acid is naturally found in the venom of bee and ant stings.
Earlier, the production of formic acid using traditional carbon dioxide devices required costly and energy-intensive purification steps. This new device will help to produce pure formic acid solutions. This method will also help boost commercial carbon dioxide conversion technologies.
Talking about the efficiency of the fuels, scientists suggest that the new electrocatalyst reached an energy conversion efficiency of about 42% during lab tests. This means that nearly half of the electrical energy can be stored in formic acid as a liquid fuel.
Rice postdoctoral researcher Chuan Xia says, “Currently, people produce catalysts on the milligram or gram scales. We developed a way to produce them at the kilogram scale. That will make our process easier to scale up for industry.”
The device generated formic acid continuously for 100 hours. During its working scientists observed no degradation in the components of the reactor. This can help scientists to produce more higher-value products such as acetic acid, ethanol, or propanol fuels.
One of the engineers involved in the project, Haotian Wang says, “The big picture is that carbon dioxide reduction is very important for its effect on global warming as well as for green chemical synthesis.” He also added, “If the electricity comes from renewable sources like the sun or wind, we can create a loop that turns carbon dioxide into something important without emitting more of it.”