A team of University of Texas at Arlington chemists and engineers have proven that concentrated light, heat and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into useable liquid hydrocarbon fuels.
This simple and inexpensive new sustainable fuels technology could potentially help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to make fuel. The process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, with a clear positive environmental impact, researchers said.
The researchers demonstrate that the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water into liquid hydrocarbons and oxygen can be achieved in a photothermochemical flow reactor operating at 180 to 200 C and pressures up to 6 atmospheres. Concentrated light drives the photochemical reaction, which generates high-energy intermediates and heat to drive thermochemical carbon-chain-forming reactions, thus producing hydrocarbons in a single-step process. Discovering a one-step process to generate renewable hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide and water is a huge achievement. The hybrid photochemical and thermochemical catalyst used for the experiment was based on titanium dioxide, a white powder that cannot absorb the entire visible light spectrum.