Now, a device that converts harmful CO2 emissions into fuel cells

December 19th, 2007 - 2:19 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Dec 19 (ANI): Researchers have developed a new device that uses sunlight and steam to neutralize carbon dioxide and ultimately turn it into a clean energy source, such as hydrogen.

Known as the Sunshine to Petrol project, this technique was developed at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to a report by Discovery News, this technique could appeal to big CO2 emitters like factories and power plants, which could potentially increase their revenues by producing another fuel source from a gas otherwise wasted into the atmosphere.

“This would allow you to use CO2 one more time. You wouldn’t throw it out into the atmosphere; you’d turn it into gasoline,” said Rich Diver, principal member of the technical staff and lead engineer on the project.

The Sunshine to Petrol concept relies on a device developed by Diver and his team called a Counter-Rotating-Ring Receiver/Reactor/Recuperator, or CR5 for short.

At the heart of the prototype CR5 is a stack of 14 ceramic discs about 1/2-inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. The outer ring of each disc is comprised of an inch of fairly porous material made from ferrite materials, basically iron oxide and other ingredients, including cobalt and zirconia.

The process first entails a sunlight zone where the iron oxide material is reduced by breaking the molecular bonds and releasing oxygen molecules.

Next, the disc moves into the zone of steam. In the prototype version, the steam is simply H2O, but it could also contain CO2. The oxygen molecules in the steam glom onto the ferrite ring and replace those oxygen molecules that were previously driven away in the first step.

What remains are two molecules of hydrogen that can be captured and eventually used, for example, to power a hydrogen fuel cell.

“The solar reactor is innovative and allows them to perform both steps of the thermo-chemical cycle in the same reactor,” said professor Aldo Steinfeld, head of the Solar Technology Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.

But according to Steinfield, the big challenges lie in the device’s efficiency.

“The rate of radiation heat transfer given by concentrated solar energy to the rate of the chemical reaction given by the kinetics of the process need to be matched,” Steinfeld told Discovery News.

Though Diver and his team are working to improve the efficiency, it could be a decade or more before such a device would be available. (ANI)

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