Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chemical Hope

It's important never to place too much stock in preliminary results. But sometimes a preliminary result comes along that's pretty darn exciting. Here it's been reported that the copper-containing catalyst shown above, if plugged into a bit of electricity, can grab CO2 from the air and stitch it together into two-carbon oxalate. (That would be the two black "H"'s with red tips in the figure above.) The real neat part of this is that it can do so even in the presence of oxygen (and air tends to have a lot of oxygen around ... ). Could this "vacuum" up carbon dioxide and split out liquid carbon-containing stuff that then we could even use for fuel, or making stuff, etc. etc.?
I've always felt that CO2 levels in the air are a chemical problem. A difficult chemical problem, no doubt, because it's hard to grab air and because oxygen is so much more reactive than the rest of air -- but a chemical problem that might very well have a chemical solution. No idea on how scaleable this process is, but it turns out it works better than expected so far. Let's keep trying.

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