Researchers from ORNL found that copper nano-particles supported on carbon nano-spikes can electrochemically catalyse the transformation of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ethanol. These are great news, because because CO2 is a greenhouse gas and ethanol is a fuel, which means we are transforming waste to fuel! Industrially, the process could be used for the storage of excess electricity from renewable energy sources. The CO2 is dissolved in water and the catalyst electrochemically transforms it directly to ethanol. The yield is 63%!
What are they?
Flexible whole cell biosensor is an appealing field. Whole-cells are a natural factory of biocatalysts. Usually, the method for acquiring isolated biocatalysts, like the enzymes, requires a process of separation and purification from the raw whole-cell strain or tissue, which is tedious, time and resource consuming. Furthermore, added advantage of whole cell biosensor over enzyme biosensor are that the enzyme sometimes requires cofactors and coenzymes, to carry out a complete reaction or to recognize a substrate, which implies a recycling process to attain the required cofactor, then the need for further separation and purification steps. Whole-cells contain a complete metabolic aggregate of enzymes, cofactors and coenzymes. Analog processes can be found in tissues. The requirements related to maintenance and cost for culturing microorganisms are below from those of tissue cultures.
CO2 is a greenhouse gas and to reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, there are three possibilities: We can minimize its production, we can store it and we can use it to make other chemical compounds. Scientists are trying realize all three possibilities to reduce the CO2 concentration in the air. There are several challenges to face, such as to make the 400ppm CO2 content of the atmosphere into usable quantities of CO2 in proper density.
Of course, it would be nice to transform CO2 into "value-added" chemicals, which are for instance methanol, fuels or methane. There are several catalysts that can transform CO2 into these chemicals and research is done to optimize these catalysts for an efficient industrial use.