Scientists Create Ultra-Efficient Solar Powered Fuel Cells for Capturing and Converting Carbon

by , 07/07/14

carbon, dioxide, capture, solar, power, alternative, energy, formic, acid, princeton, liquid, light, fuel, cell, photosynthesis,

Clean technology researchers just killed two birds with one stone by coming up with a new way to capture carbon dioxide and turn it into useful chemical compound via solar energy. In collaboration with New Jersey-based startup, Liquid Light Inc., Princeton University scientists have been able to turn a combination of carbon dioxide and water into formic acid using an electrochemical cell that’s fully powered by solar energy from local utility provider, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G).

carbon, dioxide, capture, solar, power, alternative, energy, formic, acid, princeton, liquid, light, fuel, cell, photosynthesis,

The cells used to convert the carbon dioxide are made up of channels that carry liquid surrounded by metal plates the size of old-school rectangular lunchboxes, and are made from easily sourced parts. The researchers used a process called impedance matching to balance the power generated by the solar panel with the amount of power that the cell could handle, to create optimal efficiency for the system. Gizmag reports that this allowed for an energy efficiency of 2 percent through stacking three of the cells together – totaling twice the efficiency of natural photosynthesis and the best energy efficiency yet by a human-made device. The process is similar to the artificial photosynthesis system developed by Panasonic, but works with 10 times the efficiency of the Panasonic system, which has peaked at 0.2 percent efficiency.

Related: Incredible Urban Algae Canopy Produces the Oxygen Equivalent of Four Hectares of Woodland Every Day

The product of the process, formic acid, is naturally found in ant venom and currently used as a preservative, an antibacterial agent for livestock feed, and for producing formate salt, which is used for de-icing airport runways. But it also holds the exciting potential to store energy within the fuel cells that produce it.

Via Gizmag

Flickr Creative Commons images via Mike Baker and BASF

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  1. rnbram July 10, 2014 at 9:12 pm

    Just a sec? Plants cannot increase their biomass when atmospheric CO2 drops to 180 ppm. When it was first measured, it was at about 270 ppm, and has risen to just under 400 ppm. Greenhouse operators pump CO2 into their greenhouses to help their plants grow. That is, CO2 is still too low for good plant growth!

    Why do the Greens want to stop green growth? 1000 ppm would not only green the planet, but would massively increase agricultural productivity.

    Earth is also at quite a temperature low, so low it has only happened a couple of times before, and Ice Ages resulted. If CO2 increases temperature, why should that be bad? It too, would enhance plant growth. Atmospheric scientists do not even know if the CO2 and temperature relationship is linear. Some evidence suggests that temperature increases taper off as CO2 levels increase… which blows their computer models out of the water (no the oceans won’t rise very quickly… a millimeter or two a year).

    Seems to me there is a lot of scaremongering going on, based on too little evidence.

  2. Gabriel FreeSpirit July 7, 2014 at 11:10 am

    How many genius still work hard creating killing machines all over the world ?…
    I wonder when will come the one which convert people from killing genius to creative scientist genius like you, in Princeton University …
    We should protect your work for the future, demanding Peace all over the world, don’t you think ?

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