Sarah Parsons

Researchers Build Machine That Turns CO2 Into Fuel

by , 11/25/09
filed under: global warming, Solar Power

sustainable design, green design, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, clean technology, co2 to fuel, Sandia National Laboratories Solar Machine

Imagine a machine that could suck carbon dioxide right out of the air and magically transform it into a usable product. It may seem like wishful thinking, but that’s exactly what researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories hope to do. They’ve created a protoype of a device that can turn carbon dioxide into a liquid fuel.

sustainable design, green design, renewable energy, carbon sequestration, clean technology, co2 to fuel, Sandia National Laboratories Solar Machine

Lead developer Rich Diver recently tested the Counter-Rotating-Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (CR5) for the first time. Using the sun’s energy and a series of chemical reactions, the device converts carbon dioxide from power plants into fuels like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. While CR5 is still in its infancy, Diver hopes that the machine will be used as an alternative to carbon sequestration, a method of capturing carbon dioxide from power plants and injecting it underground.

The cyllindrical machine contains two chambers and 14 rotating rings coated with iron oxide. Using a solar concentrator, scientists heat one of the chambers up to 1,500 celsius., causing the iron oxide to undergo a chemical reaction where it releases oxygen molecules. As the rings rotate, the heated chamber approaches the cold chamber and starts to cool. Scientists then pump carbon dioxide into the chamber, and the iron oxide pulls its lost oxygen molecules from the carbon dioxide, creating carbon monoxide. Scientists can also use the CR5 to create hydrogen. By mixing the hydrogen and carbon monoxide together, researchers can create syngas, a combustible fuel.

But before we can see any cars or planes running on gas made from carbon, scientists need to boost the machine’s efficiency. Consumers shouldn’t expect to see this technology in use for at least another 15-20 years.

It’s important to note that while this machine seems like it would be useful for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, burning the transportation fuel it creates would then produce more pollution and greenhouse gases. Syngas is certainly not clean-burning. But, as of yet, no one’s come up with a successful way of keeping power plants’ carbon dioxide from spewing into the atmosphere — even carbon sequestration has a long way to go, and some question whether the technology will ever really be feasible. The CR5 may have its limitations, but any project that furthers research on removing carbon from the atmosphere deserves a closer look.

+ Sandia National Laboratories

Via Physorg

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12 Comments

  1. Phung Tuan Hoang July 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

    Can I ask your some questions: What exactly is the iron oxide? And why is the end production not carbon but carbon monoxide?

  2. Rocket Engine Technolog... July 13, 2010 at 11:40 am

    [...] expand and cool. In theory, the sudden expansion and cooling would be sufficient to cause the carbon dioxide to precipitate out as dry ice, which could be collected for sequestration storage, or used for [...]

  3. Rajasekhar March 18, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Though Over all this process is yeilding neutral results ,if we are able to suck co2 from the atmosphere and dump into earth it itself will reduce the atmospheric pollution hence suggesting to create a machine which absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere and ejects carbon which can be able to dump in the soil.

  4. Rajasekhar March 18, 2010 at 12:15 am

    I like this project and I wish all the best for future success.

  5. vijay_4uj January 31, 2010 at 5:21 am

    attention : Gravatar aeread S

    it is called liquid fuel generator, but all process in progress, so please wait and watch….

  6. vijay_4uj January 31, 2010 at 5:18 am

    Dear all,

    you are doing good job.

    but if you are use a sunlight to make 1500C temperature the it is work only in day time, and what about at night ?

    i also try to convert co2 into fuel, but i use the other things and i use for temperature other device and it will produce 2400C temperature. using this temperature you can easy break the bond of CO2 and produce the carbon monoxide (CO), and it will work on day and night also.

  7. Ken J December 4, 2009 at 11:38 am

    “It’s important to note that while this machine seems like it would be useful for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, burning the transportation fuel it creates would then produce more pollution and greenhouse gases.”

    False Statement. The overall cycle of this system would not produce or retract pollutants or green house gasses. This is a neutral cycle.

    @Bensch
    Getting power from the sun is one thing, storing it is quite another. Liquid fuels like gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc have far more energy density than any battery tech could provide.

    @aeread
    Carbon Monoxide is not a biproduct of this process, but rather a step in the process. It is used in water gas shift reaction to produce hydrocarbons. The CO is taken up in the process.

  8. aeread November 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Mixing Carbon monoxide with the hydrogen would decrease the energy potential of your mixture and be counter productive. The problem remains that carbon monoxide is created, and that pollutant is worse then carbon dioxide. Also, how is the liquid fuel generated? That is not explained at all.

    I think this development is really important, but lots more work is required to push this into commercialization. The solar aspect of this is the selling point i guess, but not really important to the system at all. Energy from any source can be used.

  9. mrswim November 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    If the CO2 isn’t sequestered, then even though it will be doing more, it will still be increasing the total proportion of atmospheric CO2. I love this project, but not the use it is projected to have. Better to put it at the end of a biomass generator and keep sequestering CO2 from fossil plants.

  10. Samatva November 25, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Why not use technology to replace the carbon-based energy source in the first place?

  11. Bensch November 25, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    If you have that much sun, wouldn’t you be better off just generating solar power in the first place?

  12. bmerrow November 25, 2009 at 11:14 am

    “It’s important to note that while this machine seems like it would be useful for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, burning the transportation fuel it creates would then produce more pollution and greenhouse gases. Syngas is certainly not clean-burning.”

    Granted – but at least this technology has the benefit of utilising the CO2 back into the fuel production and would appear to use low amounts of energy (or rather high amounts of free energy from the Sun) to do so, so it offers a number of benefits compared to other technologies. Plus the syngas can be converted to synthetic fuels using Fischer Tropsch reactions that can then be utilised in exisiting infrastructures for running cars

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