Carbon Capture: Could Solar Energy Convert CO2 Into Fuel?

CO2 BubblesPhoto: Spiff

The last 30 years have seen a political battle over the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. In spite of smoking gun evidence that industrial greenhouse gasses are driving temperatures high, the effort at reduction has been only token at best. The reasons for this range from political justifications to economics, to public perceptions.

In the last 10 years, thinking has moved to carbon dioxide sequestering; the idea that we should bury CO2. While carbon dioxide storage would bypass many of the objections, it is extremely expensive, and the long-term safety and consequences are questionable. At present, only a few prototype projects are in operation.

What we need is a solution which makes CO2 reduction economically sound, or perhaps even a profitable venture. If we could efficiently convert carbon dioxide into something that could be marketed as a usable product, making it recyclable, that would be better. Best of all would be the prospect of converting it into a valued commodity. What if we could perform Reverse Combustion?

Nature has been turning CO2 into fuels for hundreds of millions, even billions, of years. Photosynthetic organisms have been combining CO2 and water to make food. The power source they use to accomplish this is solar energy. Now scientists are attempting to do the same thing. In a process called Reverse Combustion, the process captures CO2 and uses solar energy to combine it with water. Only instead of making sugar, the end product is ethanol, a marketable liquid fuel as versatile as gasoline.

A technology that efficiently converts carbon dioxide into fuel would address several issues. It would reduce carbon emissions by making CO2 recyclable and it would provide energy security by making an abundant, freely available resource into a fuel source. It would make carbon sequestering an economical venture and it would be a valuable technology easily sold on world markets.

In the battle to reduce greenhouse gasses to help stabilize the planet’s ecosphere, making CO2 into a freely available, marketable, recyclable energy resource would be a huge weapon.