Scientists – by accident – turn carbon dioxide into ethanol fuel

Researchers have stumbled upon a way to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol, using spikey nanoparticles.Via CSM

The microwave. Safety glass. Sweet’N Low. These are just a few of the accidental inventions that have changed the world, in small ways and big. Now, a new discovery may join them.

Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a Department of Energy lab in Tennessee, have discovered a mechanism for converting carbon dioxide into ethanol. Their method takes advantage of nanotechnology, creating a catalyst that produces ethanol from a solution of carbon dioxide in water.

“We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said Adam Rondinone, the lead author of a new study in the journal ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.” 

The discovery may change the way we think about carbon dioxide. If it could be captured and turned into a fuel, then carbon dioxide – the earth-polluting byproduct of global dependence on fossil fuels – could help high-energy societies work toward energy independence. The process would also allow renewable energy to be stored as ethanol, creating greater certainty about supply, the researchers say.