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Scientists Power Copper To Turn CO2 Into Endless Clean Fuel

The groundbreaking electrocatalysis technique uses renewable energy to convert CO2 into methane, creating a closed carbon loop that neutralizes emissions and offers a sustainable energy storage solution.

Researchers at McGill University have created a groundbreaking catalyst that transforms carbon dioxide (CO2) into methane, providing a cleaner and more sustainable energy source.

This innovative process uses tiny copper clusters. It can help reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere, tackling a major cause of climate change. Unlike traditional methods of producing methane from fossil fuels, which increase CO2 emissions, this new technique called electrocatalysis uses renewable energy without adding extra CO2.

“On sunny days, you can use solar power, or when it’s a windy day, you can use that wind to produce renewable electricity, but as soon as you produce that electricity, you need to use it,” said Mahdi Salehi, a Ph.D. candidate at the Electrocatalysis Lab at McGill University.

“But in our case, we can use that renewable but intermittent electricity to store the energy in chemicals like methane.”

The science behind copper nanoclusters

The key to this breakthrough is the use of copper nanoclusters. These tiny clusters of copper atoms act as catalysts to turn CO2 in the air into methane. When this methane is used, it releases CO2 that can be captured and turned back into methane again.

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This creates a cycle that keeps CO2 emissions neutral, making it a very sustainable energy solution.

“In our simulations, we used copper catalysts with different sizes, from small ones with only 19 atoms to larger ones with 1000 atoms,” explained Salehi. “We then tested them in the lab, focusing on how the sizes of the clusters influenced the reaction mechanism.”

Towards industrial application and global impact

The research team plans to improve their catalyst to make it even more efficient. They also want to explore how it can be used in large-scale industrial settings. Their ultimate goal is to help produce clean, sustainable energy worldwide.

This research has significant implications. It provides a way to turn CO2 into methane using renewable energy sources. This technology has two major benefits: reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating a sustainable way to store energy.

The concept of a closed carbon loop could transform how we manage carbon and produce energy, greatly impacting the fight against climate change.

The researchers see promising future applications for their work. As they improve the catalyst and make the process larger, more industries could use it. This discovery might significantly reduce how much we depend on fossil fuels and cut global CO2 emissions by a lot.

“In the context of existing solutions, our catalyst stands out due to its ability to utilize renewable energy and create a closed carbon loop,” said Salehi. “This approach not only addresses the issue of CO2 emissions but also provides a viable pathway for sustainable energy production.”

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Source: IE

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