Greenhouse Gas Converted into Fuel?

It’s a fact of life at this moment in history: humans produce CO2. A lot of it. And this is a problem. Since so many carbon emissions are produced in the cause of transportation, wouldn’t the logical solution to the greenhouse gas problem be to find a way to turn CO2 into fuel? That’s what researchers at the University of Oxford seem to think–although it’s clear that any real solution is still a long way off.

The most promising approach to this ambitious goal appears to lie with methanol,  a versatile feedstock that can be made into all kinds of fuels, produced by adding CO2 to hydrogen, then injecting energy from sunlight. This, however, runs into the currently energy-intensive process of producing hydrogen–so researchers at Oxford are working on a way to bypass the need for hydrogen by working directly with methane, a substance produced by hydrogen and CO2 halfway through the methanol-producing process (as well as by cows, incidentally), by adding biomethane to the CO2 currently being dumped into the atmosphere every day by coal-fired power stations.


image via University of Oxford

There are several bugs in the program yet to be worked out, though, chiefly involving ways to get around the impurities in smoke-stack emissions, including NOx, or nitrous oxide. But solutions are underway, including an ambitious plan to use nanoscale-structured magnetic catalysts to use NOx in the process of producing methanol.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.

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