Queen’s University researches how to turn carbon dioxide into sustainable fuel

Queen’s University researchers are developing an approach to combating climate change by creating a system to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into sustainable fuel.

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“Every single process will have some carbon footprint, so even though we are using clean energy, we cannot stop CO2 production,” said Cao Thang Dinh, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Queen’s University, in an interview with Global News.

Dinh says it’s a three-pronged approach. First, his team is researching how to convert carbon dioxide into chemicals such as methane, methanol and ethanol that can be used as fuels. They also hope to develop technology that uses carbon dioxide to make other chemicals used to make plastics, nylon, silicone and other materials, and are looking at ways to convert electricity from wind or solar power into liquid fuel.

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“If we can get this technology to work, you can provide fertilizer and clean fuels like water and fertilizer for everyone, especially people in developing countries,” Dinh said.

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One of the biggest challenges, he says, is the amount of energy required for the conversion process itself. While other researchers are working on similar technologies, Dinh says his lab’s focus is on energy efficiency.

“What we’re doing is we’re trying to combine them together so we don’t need high purity CO2 and we don’t have to separate the products so we skip the two important steps so we can end up using the CO2 directly in the air and put produce pure products, and that improves the overall efficiency of the process,” said Dinh.

While carbon conversion is still in its infancy, Dinh says we will see the scaling of products using this technology in the next three to five years.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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