Sometimes the biggest discoveries in science happen purely by accident, and a recent “accidental” discovery could be a step in the right direction in stopping or reversing climate change by removing Co2 from the air and converting it into ethanol. Scientists working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory were looking for a way to turn Co2 into a usable fuel and were surprised when the first step in their process produced ethanol. Using nanotechnology, they found that they could turn Co2 into ethanol, which of course can be used to power vehicles, generators, and other devices with an internal combustion engine. The energy needed to create the reaction is relatively low, in part because the process can be achieved at room temperature, which means it can be more easily controlled.
While they are still working on making it more efficient, the process is fairly simple, low cost, and doesn’t require any rare materials. They use copper and carbon nanospikes on a silicone surface to create a chemical reaction that turns the Co2 into a fairly pure ethanol. It is pure speculation as to what, if any, consumer uses such a process might have, but it would almost certainly be used on a large scale to help slow or even reverse, the rising temperatures that have helped spur on severe weather, droughts, melting ice caps, and rising sea levels. Not only could this process remove Co2 from the air, but it would also reduce the need to drill or otherwise impact the environment in order to extract fossil fuels from the ground or in our bays and gulfs. Time will tell, but this is certainly a promising step in the right direction in the fight to combat climate change.