23 Nov 2009:
Researchers Develop Machine
To Recycle Carbon Dioxide Into Fuel
U.S. researchers have demonstrated a technology that uses the sun’s heat to convert carbon dioxide and water into the building blocks of traditional fuels
, a reverse combustion process that may emerge as a practical alternative to sequestration of CO2 emissions from power plants. The prototype “Sunshine to Petrol” system, developed by Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, uses concentrated solar energy to trigger a thermo-chemical reaction in an iron-rich composite located inside a two-sided cylindrical chamber. The iron oxide is designed to lose an oxygen molecule when exposed to 1,500 degree C heat, and then retrieve an oxygen molecule when it is cooled down, essentially converting an incoming supply of CO2 into an outgoing stream of carbon monoxide. Additionally, when researchers
Sandia National Laboratories
pump water into the chamber rather than CO2, the machine produces hydrogen. Combining those retrieved gases — hydrogen and carbon monoxide — they are able to create syngas, which can be used as a fuel. While researchers say the technology likely will not be ready for market for 15 to 20 years, it could one day become a practical way to recycle CO2. “It’s a productive utilization of CO2 that you might capture from a coal plant, a brewery, and similar concentrated sources,” said James Miller, a Sandia chemical engineer.
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Photographer Robert Wintner documents the exquisite beauty and biodiversity of Cuba’s coral reefs, which are largely intact thanks to stifled coastal development in the communist nation. View the gallery.
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The Warriors of Qiugang
, a Yale Environment 360
video, chronicles a Chinese village’s fight against a polluting chemical plant. It was nominated for a 2011 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.
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Top Image: aerial view of Iceland
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A three-part series Tainted Harvest
looks at the soil pollution crisis in China, the threat it poses to the food supply, and the complexity of any cleanup. Read the series.