Researchers develop nature-inspired concept to convert CO2 into clean fuels

Industry Insights

In a new development, researchers have developed an efficient hypothesis to transform CO2 into clean, sustainable fuels without any unwanted waste or by-products.

Earlier, in another research initiative, the researchers from University of Cambridge demonstrated that biological catalysts or enzymes can generate fuels in an eco-friendly manner using renewable energy sources, albeit at low efficiency.

The latest research shows improved fuel production efficiency by 18 times in laboratory setting to demonstrate polluting carbon emissions can be converted into green fuel efficiently without loss of energy.

The findings of the research are published in two related papers in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Nature Chemistry.

In fact, most methods to convert CO2 into fuel also generates unwanted by-products such as hydrogen. While scientists can alter the ambient conditions to minimize hydrogen production, but this reduces the performance for CO2 conversion. This implies cleaner fuel can be produced but at the cost of efficiency.

The proof of concept developed by researchers at University of Cambridge depends on enzymes extracted from bacteria to power the chemical reactions which turns CO2 into fuel via a process called electrolysis.

Meanwhile, enzymes are more efficient than other catalysts such as gold, but are highly sensitive to their local chemical environment. In the event of absence of right local environment, enzymes disintegrate and chemical reactions are slow.

The team of researchers at Cambridge along with a team at Universidade Nova de Lisbo, Portugal have developed a method for improved efficiency of electrolysis by fine adjustment of solution conditions to alter the ambient environment of enzymes.

In fact, evolution of enzymes has happened over millions of years to be extremely efficient and selective, and are great for fuel production due to absence of unwanted by-products.

Edward Turner

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