Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Apr 05

Car Fuel from Carbon Dioxide?

Posted in Environment and Sustainability | Future Technology | Transportation

Car Fuel from Carbon Dioxide If a car is running smoothly on the road and its consuming carbon dioxide from air as fuel instead of petrol, what a dream world that would be. Researchers from the South West are working on a £1.4 million project to turn the above dream into a reality. This car of future will consume one of the root causes of greenhouse effect. What a greener world that would be. Scientists and engineers from many universities will combine their efforts to produce that dream car running on carbon dioxide. The University of Bath is leading the research. They are joined by the University of the West of England and members from the University of Bristol.

Dr Frank Marken, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry (University of Bath) said: “Current processes rely on using separate technology to capture and utilize the CO2, which makes the process very inefficient. By combining the processes the efficiency can be improved and the energy required to drive the CO2 reduction is minimized. It will be a massive challenge but we have a strong inter-disciplinary team that includes chemists, chemical engineers, biologists, and life-cycle analysts.”

Currently the project is trying to develop porous materials. Porous materials are helpful in absorbing the gas from the air. Carbon dioxide causes global warming but scientists are converting it into chemicals that can be used to make car fuel or plastics. They are utilizing the solar power for their experiments. The researchers are visualizing a future where their porous materials are the main components of a factory’s chimneys. These porous materials would be absorbing carbon dioxide pollutants from the air, reducing the effects of climate change.

Dr Petra Cameron, RCUK Fellow from the Department of Chemistry (University of Bath), said: “We hope that the use of renewable energy to recycle CO2 will be an effective way to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.” When this project will be completed it will mean that new kinds of fuels can be produced from old ‘carbon emissions’ that are generated from factories, plants and even cars themselves. The idea of ‘recycling’ carbon emitted from the fossil fuels, is not new. But people are warming up towards this idea now. Now there is no dearth of funds for such innovative ideas.

The Bath-Bristol collaboration helps in drawing talents from different streams of knowledge such as researchers from Bath’s Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (I-SEE), the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) and School of Life Sciences at the University of the West of England.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, (BRL), said, “One of great advantages of this project is that it will exploit the natural abilities of microorganisms to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere and at the same time produce electricity or hydrogen, as required.”

Dr David Fermin from the University of Bristol said: “Currently, there are no large-scale technologies available for capturing and processing CO2 from air. The facts are that CO2 is rather diluted in the atmosphere and its chemical reactivity is very low. By combining clever material design with heterogeneous catalysis, electrocatalysis and biocatalysis, we aim at developing an effective carbon neutral technology.”

The project, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is in its nascent phase but the researchers predict the new technology could make a real difference in the fight against climate change. The project is part of Research Councils UK (RCUK) cross-Council programme ‘Nanoscience: through Engineering to Application’.

  • Mike Maybury

    A better fuel for cars is not really solving the problem.

    The stupid system we have of traveling long distances into work, for shopping etc. by car or other transport is what needs to be changed. We need to live locally; ie. within walking or cycling distance of work, shops, schools. We need to live in reasonable sized houses, not the monstrosities that one frequently sees. The people in Europe and USA have, for too long, consumed much too much of the world’s resources in comparison of the majority of the world, and clearly they will not put up with this inequality for much longer.

  • Simon

    I’m with you Mike. I’ve been waiting most of my life for a world where pedestrians are not second class citizens. Where kids can again play in the streets outside their homes, and neighbours sit out and chat . Where hundreds of highly mobile strangers don’t pass your door daily, and women and children can safely go outside at night ,knowing that their community is generally watching out and aware of any strangers. Towns and cities ,where the background sound is of wind and birds, not roaring traffic.

  • styke

    I cannot say I understood the article. Are they proposing putting porous material on exhaust pipes which would trap the carbon dioxide? It seems like that would fill up awful fast.

  • amoline

    If this serves to be true, imagine what implications this could mean for society. In a time where geopolitics, climate debate, and energy concerns plague the headlines, it is reassuring to see that there is some places where science is helping to shed some light. We are not going to escape the reality of getting away from fossil fuels anytime soon in our economies. That being said, we must make sure we are laying down the proper bridging efforts to transition ourselves to a society built on these types of technologies.

  • Phil

    Big Coal would be a supporter if it could prevent CO2 getting into the atmosphere it would extend the life of pits and the coal industry itself for hundreds of years.

    Production of toxic slurry, slag heaps, mountaintop removal are practices that would remain until addressed.

    What are the byproducts from combustion? What happens to the choking smog particles?

  • Jos Conil

    The prospect of cleaning up excess CO2 is a good one, but this approach is like creating a problem and trying to solve it.

    It’s better to reduce and if possible avoid the emissions rather than clean it later.

  • Narayan Prasad Thapaliya

    I don’t think this is the good idea. why can’t we imagine world free of Cars and small vehicles. we have enough buses, electric trains for traveling long distance. more, what the world would be if this technology “using atmospheric Co2 as a car fuel” consumed all the Co2 from atmosphere (this might be the fiction).

  • Felix Staratschek

    “We hope that the use of renewable energy to recycle CO2…..” I am a bit skeptical. Why not replace CO2 by renewable energy? Fuelgas has much more ingredients than CO2, there is mercurium in coal and radioactive waste from the oil- production. We need more solar-, wind- and biogasenergy, we need better engery storage systems and we need a total recycling of all materials. This would reduce CO2.

    I cannot imagine, how the CO2 from the air could be brought into a concentration, that could be used for fuel, etc.. My be, some volcanic CO2 sources and fuel gas sources from the industry have a concentration, where such a technique could work.

  • Ralph Bell

    Although the opening paragraph would lead us to believe that CO2 is being directly used as fuel, a later reference to micro-organisms leads me to think that this is really about biofuel. The micro-organisms (probably algae) absorbs the CO2, combined with sunlight, creates photosynthesis–the actual source of fuel. This is a promising field, but this article is misleading.

  • Alejandro Leija

    … I agree that this technology wouldn’t solve the whole entire list of problems we have actually around the world and excuse @mikemaybury and @simon but the way of life we have nowadays is not looking towards to settle down.. =P

    @felix and others who are non believers:
    what is being proposed by this technology is to turn CO2 into CO via some kind of porous nano-material (as a catalyst) in presence of light (whatever frequency) which provides enough energy to make possible the reaction [2CO2 -> 2CO + O2] at good rates

    * CO can be used to synthesize other fuels such like methanol in many ways, here is one example []..
    * to create hydrogen gas which is a very powerful fuel via WGS reaction []
    * CO can be used in direct heat applications (in a furnace, for example) because CO is partially combusted and still has room for one extra oxygen to become CO2 as it was originally…

    also, i suggest everyone to look for Sandia’s “Sunshine to Petrol” project.. [], they are looking for the same thing

    my conclusions:
    *good – basically, because useless CO2 becomes useful, which means lots of $$$ saving and prevents more new fossil fuels to be around
    *neutral – because CO2 gathered from the atmosphere will remain constant after being used
    *bad – i cant see why (technically speaking)

    have a nice day everyone…!!

  • yonose

    I really like these kind of technologies in development!!, but when talking about business, I must say this is a project where some governments are more likely to invest…

    One thing I disagree is that CO2 is the only one to blame because of the global warming. I’d think in a more sincere way to say the advantages of this possible new technology, something like:


    Vehicles made with this new technology built-in will be more energy-efficient and thus fuel will be free!! And some new corporations or the most powerful ones will get rid of their competition faster and easier!!


    I just hope we don’t have to pay for CO2, or fuel, anymore.

    Conclusion, good for people who puts a lot of time en effort into this project, congratulations because these people may go very well in life, and will make people’s life better, is just the ill informed CO2/global warming thing that does not seem to fit so well for me, while global warming is not at all caused because of us humans, but if you believe in global warming ONLY because humans contaminate atmosphere with CO2, this may be your most beloved solution.

    Don’t get me wrong (again). This technology seems to be great, but some arguments into this article need to be added and refined.

  • SurfnRide

    It sounds like 1 & 2 would like to live in a feudal society.

  • tomfy

    Where does the energy come from?

    It takes energy to turn the CO2 into fuel, at least as much as you get back when you burn the fuel (producing CO2 again). This is basic physics. Why not directly use that energy to power your car, rather than to drive the reaction producing fuel from CO2.

    Any researcher who wants to be taken seriously by scientists needs to address this head on – it is an obvious point. Or are they claiming to have invented a perpetual motion machine?

  • Paula

    So… what happens when there is more hydrogen than carbon dioxide? What imbalance will this cause down the road?

  • Jithesh

    I have a different view. OK. It seems like a solution to reign in C02. But what happens in a long run? CO2 is needed to a threshold level below which it affects the climate adversely. CO2 in the atmosphere keeps our Earth warm. So now it seems like we are gonna finish of entire CO2 and gonna move in the opposite direction(may be hundreds of year down the line). And what we see at the end of the tunnel? ‘GLOBAL COOLING?’ I applaud the effort, but can see it as another business opportunity fin this world of capitalism.

  • Scott Storm Carter

    I hate to say it but this technology sounds more like a publicity stunt than a real affordable technology solution. Or possibly someone wanting to solve both pollution and energy at the same time. Do they truly believe it will be a practical solution? I hope so, but doubting it. At least something will be learned from the research.

    What I really want to know is why aren’t the more workable energy solutions implemented? We need more people putting real practical technologies into the market where people can use them. Maybe I have to do it.

  • Scott Storm Carter

    If this technology works practically it could be great. Since getting people to control how much carbon dioxide they create is against human nature and instincts. There is no direct incentive from doing it.

    Most renewable energies are decentralized. Decentralized change is harder and more expensive to implement. We need solutions like this (if practical) that are available to the average consumer as an alternative. All we need is a ‘green car’ manufactured near where people will buy and use them, at an affordable price.

  • DUKAS99

    How are you guys planning to use that chemical,i mean wont it just be like using poison to create heavier bigger poison???

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