Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel

Date:
July 1, 2014
Source:
Princeton University
Summary:
Researchers have devised an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. The transformation from carbon dioxide and water to formic acid was powered by a commercial solar panel.

Pictured with the photovoltaic-electrochemical cell system from left to right: Graduate student James White (Princeton), Professor Andrew Bocarsly (Princeton and Liquid Light) and principal engineer Paul Majsztrik (Liquid Light).
Credit: Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Research to curb global warming caused by rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, usually involves three areas: Developing alternative energy sources, capturing and storing greenhouse gases, and repurposing excess greenhouse gases. Drawing on two of these approaches, researchers in the laboratory of Andrew Bocarsly, a Princeton professor of chemistry, collaborated with start-up company Liquid Light Inc. of Monmouth Junction, N.J. to devise an efficient method for harnessing sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into a potential alternative fuel known as formic acid. The study was published June 13 in the Journal of CO2 Utilization.

The transformation from carbon dioxide and water to formic acid was powered by a commercial solar panel generously provided by the energy company PSE&G that can be found atop electric poles across the state. The process takes place inside an electrochemical cell, which consists of metal plates the size of rectangular lunch-boxes that enclose liquid-carrying channels.

To maximize the efficiency of the system, the amount of power produced by the solar panel must match the amount of power the electrochemical cell can handle, said Bocarsly. This optimization process is called impedance matching. By stacking three electrochemical cells together, the research team was able to reach almost 2 percent energy efficiency, which is twice the efficiency of natural photosynthesis. It is also the best energy efficiency reported to date using a human-made device.

A number of energy companies are interested in storing solar energy as formic acid in fuel cells. Additionally, formate salt -- readily made from formic acid -- is the preferred de-icing agent on airplane runways because it is less corrosive to planes and safer for the environment than chloride salts. With increased availability, formate salts could supplant more harmful salts in widespread use.

Using waste carbon dioxide and easily obtained machined parts, this approach offers a promising route to a renewable fuel, Bocarsly said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Princeton University. The original article was written by Tien Nguyen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. James L. White, Jake T. Herb, Jerry J. Kaczur, Paul W. Majsztrik, Andrew B. Bocarsly. Photons to formate: Efficient electrochemical solar energy conversion via reduction of carbon dioxide. Journal of CO2 Utilization, 2014; 7: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.jcou.2014.05.002

Cite This Page:

Princeton University. "Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701170158.htm>.
Princeton University. (2014, July 1). Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701170158.htm
Princeton University. "Solar panels light the way from carbon dioxide to fuel." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140701170158.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

Seismic Activity Halts Recovery at Japan Volcano

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) Rescuers were forced to suspend plans to recover at least two dozen bodies from near the summit of Mount Ontake in central Japan on Tuesday after increased seismic activity raised concern about the possibility of another eruption. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins