Cleaning your oven is up there with doing your taxes in terms of worst tasks ever, but by doing so you could be wiping away a precious energy source. According to researchers from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the rust that accumulates in your oven could be the key to making unlimited amounts of cheap fuel.

The idea all revolves around ceria, a by-product that occurs when ovens are heated, stripping oxygen from water and carbon dioxide leaving the basics of a liquid fuel. Scientists believe it is this fuel that could be turned into cheap, unlimited power cells.

While scientists have known about the process for a while, this is the first time they’ve realized its potential. “We are not dictating to the user what the energy infrastructure should be,” said Sossina Haile, a professor of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering speaking to The Daily Mail. “We are making solar energy easy to use by putting it into a form that our industry is used to seeing and making it available on demand.”

Ceria, which is the oxidised form of cerium and forms in self-cleaning ovens,was heated by the team to 3,000F (1,650C) using concentrated sunlight so that it naturally released oxygen from its surface. Once the temperature was lowered, the ceria ‘sucked’ oxygen in, as if it was breathing. When the team added water and carbon dioxide, the ceria stripped the oxygen away leaving hydrogen and carbon monoxide. It is these two elements that can be combined to make fuel.

Professor Haile said, “Because the fuels we produce are so pure, they could be easily used to run fuel cells, which generate power very efficiently.” Not just that, but cerium is incredibly plentiful as my oven will attest to. However the scientists are looking for a material with a ‘smaller temperature swing’ to improve efficiency.

“If both the high and low temperatures can be lowered,” Haile added, “the overall system lifetime will be improved. Better materials could result in a better process.”

+ California Institute Of Technology

via The Daily Mail