Solar-powered fuel cell recycles plastic waste and carbon dioxide

Solar-powered fuel cell recycles plastic waste and carbon dioxide

The system captures carbon from air and recycles waste plastic

Ariffin Mohamad Annuar

A solar-powered system may assist take away carbon dioxide from the air and convert plastic waste into sustainable gasoline and helpful chemical substances, in a double-whammy of recycling.

Earlier analysis on photo voltaic gasoline cells, a know-how that makes use of daylight to drive chemical reactions that produce fuels, have used pure CO2. Now, Erwin Reisner on the College of Cambridge and his colleagues have developed a tool that utilises CO2 captured from industrial processes or immediately from the air, filtering out different gases as wanted.

“There was an incredible advance in growing carbon seize and sequestration applied sciences. In parallel, there’s been plenty of improvement in photo voltaic fuels gadgets,” says Reisner. “That is the primary time combining the 2.”

The system is break up into two compartments. One filters air although an alkaline answer that catches CO2, then converts it into syngas, a gasoline that’s often used to make ammonia or methanol. Within the different, an answer derived from PET plastic waste will get transformed into glycolic acid, a chemical that’s generally utilized in cosmetics.

Combining these two compartments isn’t only a case of making a two-in-one gadget as a result of the pair truly work collectively. For CO2 to rework into syngas, it wants to realize some electrons. Usually, that is completed by breaking apart water molecules, however that course of is energy-intensive, says Reisner. As an alternative, the 2 compartments act like a battery, with the CO2 aspect the cathode and the plastic aspect the anode, transferring electrons between them.

As a proof-of-concept prototype, the know-how nonetheless has a protracted strategy to go earlier than it may be deployed at a big scale. “One of many issues we try to enhance is the effectivity,” says workforce member Sayan Kar, additionally on the College of Cambridge.

Sooner or later, the researchers hope that the know-how will assist eradicate new fossils fuels from the economic system totally. “The method is totally round,” says Reisner. “We seize CO2. We make a gasoline. You employ it. You type the CO2 once more.”

Reisner additionally notes that this demonstrates there’s an alternative choice to simply to capturing CO2 and storing it in locations like underground reservoirs. “You pump it someplace, however we don’t know the long-term penalties. Now, we present you may truly make helpful merchandise from it.”

“It’s a good chemistry, but it surely’s tough to say if it could compete with present processes,” says Jotheeswari Kothandaraman at Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory in Washington state. “Techno-economic and life cycle assessments are wanted to know the financial feasibility and carbon footprint of the method.”


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