In a stunning development scientists at the University of Granada have a developed a carbon gel that enables carbon dioxide to be turned into hydrocarbons using a novel electro-catalytic process.

Electro Catalytic Carbon Based Gel Reactor Operating.  Click image for the largest view.  Image Credit: The university of Granada.

Electro Catalytic Carbon Based Gel Reactor Operating. Click image for the largest view. Image Credit: The University of Granada.

After more than 10 years’ work researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) have developed a new material using doped carbon that allows low-cost fuel to be produced and also reduces the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.

The recently patented carbon based gel material enables the CO2 to be turned back into hydrocarbons with great savings both in time and money.

Agustin  Cadenas Operates the Electro Catalytic Carbon Based Gel Reactor,  Click image for the largest view.  Image Credit: The University of Grananda.

Agustin Cadenas Operates the Electro Catalytic Carbon Based Gel Reactor, Click image for the largest view. Image Credit: The University of Grananda.

The UGR team’s doped carbon gel acts as a highly dispersed (it is made up of 90% carbon and a small quantity of heavy metals) and effective electro-catalyst, which means it enables CO2 to be turned into hydrocarbons at a low cost. This new material, developed entirely at the UGR, following more than 10 years of research into carbon gels, has recently been patented by the Institution’s Office for the Transfer of Research Results.

The project’s principal researcher, Agustin F. Perez Cadenas, explains the doped carbon gel “is not a magical solution to prevent CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and stop the contamination caused by the greenhouse effect, but it does enable them to be reduced considerably, as well as reducing energy costs.” At the moment, this system is in its laboratory phase and has still not been applied in actual power stations, though the tests carried out at the UGR have led to some “highly promising” results.

The UGR lecturers Agustin F. Perez Cadenas, Carlos Moreno Castilla, Francisco Carrasco Marin, Francisco J. Maldonado Hodar and Sergio Morales Torres, along with Maria Perez Cadenas from the UNED, form the research team currently working in this line of investigation.  Initially, there was also another collaborator, Freek Kapteijn, from the TUDelft  of the Netherlands.

The press release is quite short and vague in detail.  There is no published study listing.  With so much at stake if the discovery can be commercial these circumstances are understandable.  Yet for full credibility a bit more information would be useful.

It’s fathomable to grasp that the gel would catalyze the carbon into a hydrocarbon.  The question is where the considerable amount of necessary hydrogen is coming from.  Hydrocarbons while complex have essentially just carbon and hydrogen atoms in the molecules.  No comment on the hydrogen source leaves a bit of skepticism on the viability of the process.

Never the less, one hopes the team is really on to something.  The press release suggests the process could be applied to power sources of renewable energies (wind, solar or wave) that produce energy peaks that are wasted, since they do not produce energy directly concurrent to energy needs. Storing this energy in batteries for later use would be a very costly process that requires huge amounts of expensive pure metals, such as lead, nickel, lithium or copper, which is why batteries are currently hardly ever used.

If the power is available a low cost, the hydrogen source cheap enough, and the gel works to reform fresh hydrogen and CO2 into fuel molecules then the research could be a turning point.

We might find ourselves saving up CO2 to make fuel.

But today, we have just a peek at what the Spaniards have developed and no idea of the prospects.  However it’s quite an interesting clue about a fresh idea for a new pathway to make fuel in the current carbon cycle.


Comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Jagdish on March 8, 2013 3:54 AM

    This is the first ever convincing indication of a feasible process of producing synthetic fuels from CO2. Electricity can be cheap at a source like solar or nuclear power plant without the distribution cost. Hydrogen must be from electrolysis of water.

  2. jp straley on March 8, 2013 8:23 AM

    Thermodynamics of the process?

Name (required)

Email (required)

Website

Speak your mind