Here is How to Convert Greenhouse Gases into Fuel Cells

Here is How to Convert Greenhouse Gases into Fuel Cells

Energy CIO Insights | Monday, September 16, 2019

The lab experiment to invent the green machine allows the generation of fuel cells from the reduction of carbon dioxide and GHGs. 

FREMONT, CA: Since the early detection of global warming and the greenhouse effect, scientists have been working on innumerable ways to tackle the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the environment. 

Recently a group of scientists, supported by Rice University and U.S. Department of Energy have found in an experiment, a method to generate a pure form of fuel. The technique is an efficient and environmentally friendly method to convert the commonly occurring GHGs into a pure form of liquid fuels. The group has developed a device that employs an electrocatalysis reactor for the conversion of carbon dioxide into liquid fuel in the purest form of Formic acid. This Formic acid is an important reagent found in bee and ant venom. 

Most of the conventional manufacturing procedures of formic acid have been very expensive as it consumes a high rate of energy. But, the new procedure, unlike the conventional ones, depicts how the conversion of the GHGs into a rich fuel source can be done by exercising it in an energy-efficient and cost-effective manner. 

The Formic acids produced can be applied to several processes. The colorless liquid has a pungent odor at room temperature, and its penetration is harsh. Hence it is also used for antibacterial applications. The Formic acid is mainly applied as a preservative and an antibacterial agent in livestock feed. This is, more importantly, a fuel-cell fuel, which, after burning, can generate electricity and also emit carbon dioxide. This emission can be grabbed and recycled again. 

To elaborate and develop the technology, even more, the team at Rice University used a two-dimensional catalyst made of bismuth and an electrolyte in solid-state to eliminate the necessity of salt in the reaction. In a typical sense, salts in the form of chlorides or carbonates are usually required to enable free movement of the ions in water as part and parcel of the conversion reaction. In this case, bismuth, which is a very heavy atom in comparison to the transition metals like iron, cobalt, or copper, was the reason of the solid-state electrolyte. This catalyst also posed a chance for easy reproduction during the scaling of the experiment. 

The electrocatalysis reactor was successfully generating formic acid continuously for 100 hours with barely or negligible degradation of the reactor’s components when tested, reports the researcher from the University. The formic acid concentration determines the method by which the water is pumped through the reactor. The 100 hours of successful testing of the experiment suggested that the process could be scaled up to an industrial level or for commercial purposes. The team of creators hopes that the reactor can be easily retrofitted to produce other products like acetic acid and ethanol.

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