DGIST researchers are in the process of developing a new material that recycles atmospheric CO2 to produce cleaner hydrocarbon fuels.
According to the scientists, adding copper and platinum nanoparticles to the surface of a blue titania photocatalyst significantly improves its ability to recycle atmospheric CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels.
The modified photocatalyst was developed and tested by the DGIST team along with colleagues from Korea, Japan, and the U.S. It is said to convert sunlight to fuel with an efficiency of 3.3% over 30-minute periods.
According to the scientists, this is an important milestone as it means that large-scale use of this technology is becoming a more realistic prospect.
Photocatalysts are semiconducting materials that can use the energy from sunlight to catalyze a chemical reaction.
Scientists have been investigating their use to trap harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as one of many means to alleviate global warming.
Some photocatalysts are being tested for their ability to recycle CO2 into hydrocarbon fuels like methane, the main component found in natural gas.
Methane combustion releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere compared to other fossil fuels, making it an attractive alternative.
One major drawback however is that it’s difficult to manufacture photocatalysts that produce a large enough yield of hydrocarbon products for their use to be practical.
DGIST Professor Su-Il In’s team hopes to remedy this by adding copper and platinum nanoparticles to the surface of the blue titania photocatalyst.
Copper has good carbon dioxide adsorption property while platinum is very good at separating the much-needed charges generated by the blue titania from the sun’s energy.
“The photocatalyst has a very high conversion efficiency and is relatively easy to manufacture, making it advantageous for commercialization,” says Professor In.
The team plans to continue its efforts to further improve the catalyst’s photoconversion efficiency.
They are already mulling on making it thick enough to absorb all incident light, and to improve its mechanical integrity to enable easier handling.
Image and content: NMRA/DGIST