|Scientists have developed the first low-cost system for splitting carbon
dioxide (CO2) into carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen - a process that's
crucial if we're going to ramp up renewable energy use in the future.
This splitting process has long been identified as a promising way of
turning renewables into fuel without increasing the levels of CO2 in the
atmosphere, but until now, no one had come up with a method that was
cheap enough to be practical.
The solution devised by a team from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de
Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland is based on an electrolysis technique
using copper-oxide nanowires modified with tin oxide, which splits CO2
with an efficiency of 13.4% running on solar power.
Once CO is released, it can be combined with hydrogen to produce
synthetic carbon-based fuels, which means CO2 gets taken out of the
atmosphere, and we get clean fuel at the other end - a win-win. Current
methods for doing this are prohibitively expensive, and need more energy
to break down the CO2 than they put out in return, which is why this new
method is potentially so exciting.