Talk about a Eureka moment. Scientists at Sandia National Labs, seeking a means to create cheap and abundant hydrogen to power a hydrogen economy, realized they could use the same technology to "reverse-combust" CO2 back into fuel. Researchers still have to improve the efficiency of the system, but they recently demonstrated a working prototype of their "Sunshine to Petrol" machine that converts waste CO2 to carbon monoxide, and then syngas, consuming nothing but solar energy.
The device, boasting the simple title Counter-Rotating-Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (we'll go with "CR5") sets off a thermo-chemical reaction by exposing an iron-rich composite to concentrated solar heat. The composite sheds an oxygen molecule when heated and gets one back as it cools, and therein lies the eureka.
The cylindrical metal CR5 is divided into hot and cold chambers. Solar energy heats the hot chamber to a scorching 2,700 degrees, hot enough to force the iron oxide composite to lose oxygen atoms. The composite is then thrust into the cool chamber, which is filled with carbon dioxide. As it cools, the iron oxide snatches back its lost oxygen atoms, leaving behind carbon monoxide.
The same process can also produce raw hydrogen by pumping water rather than CO2 into the cool chamber. Hydrogen and carbon monoxide can then be blended into syngas, a replacement for current hydrocarbon-based combustibles like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. While it's not a total solution for carbon emissions -- syngas, after all, burns right back into CO2 -- it is an alternative to sequestering carbon underground, where it benefits no one.
CO2 recycling could be used to trap waste carbon from factories and power plants and return that energy to productive use, rather than releasing it into the air, where it can cause problems science doesn't even yet fully understand. The next step for the team is to increase the process's efficiency to twice that of natural photosynthesis. A market-ready CR5 device is still more than a decade away, but the idea of taking our waste carbon and turning it directly back into fuel using nothing but abundant solar rays is tantalizing, to say the least.
This is very interesting. If we were to capture the CO2 that is let off after the syngas is burned, we could make a cycle that would continue to use the same fuel over and over again, thus cutting down our emissions tremendously.
Please, please, please ... I hope this truly works and lives up to it's potential. This might be a means of thermal energy storage locked into a hydrocarbon that would finally exceed the energy density of hydrogen.
This has a few applications on Earth, but MANY applications for space colonization. Coupled with fuel-cell and Solar technology we could virtually solve the power problem with running a lunar colony, or gods forbid, a Martian colony.
Really this is just using solar as a heat source - mass produced nuclear power is a much cheaper heat source so for a large scale operation....
As a small scale unit in remote and off the grid places, it'd be a great source of fuel.
The most important thing is how efficient is this system which the article does not say it.
If the overall efficiency will be lower than solar panel, solar-thermal etc. systems then it cannot be successful.
Sort of a storage system for solar energy, eh?
This is another one of those preemptive articles where people have something that kinda works, but doesn't really yet.
It would take the same amount of energy to create this fuel (probably more depending on efficiency) then you would get from burning it again so there's no real energy crisis solution. I agree with sethdayal that nuclear is the way to go
The only question thats lingering on my mind is what is the max amount of c02 gases can this machine be able to convert at one time? and how long of a time? How costly would the equipment be produced, ran, and kept running as is? Those costs of mass production and industialized may out weigh the advantages. If we can get it produced at a fair amount of money, who knows we could be putting these things on corners of city blocks, and other large areas that produce c02 in large amounts.
Hell if it gives no by-products of waste after it is ran, and the efficentcy is at least over 50% we could out do nuclear energy, which of course produces nuclear waste that cannot be disposed of instead of having it sit in a dump,the bi-product of fission is plutonium239 with a half life of 80,000yrs, or uranium233 with a half-life of 159,000yrs, and of course uranium235 with a half life of 704 million yrs. It just doesent add up compaired to this new therom.
This is a nice concept, but I don't think this is is something that will save the earth from it's energy hungry human species.
Nuclear fusion is the answer, therefore, you great minds of planet earth please focus on that.
P.S. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas, yet very toxic to humans and animals.
This is NOT a new solar panel, looks like some of you didn't even read the article. The CR5 was not meant to produce energy, it produces fuel.
It doesn't matter how efficient it is NOW, they said right in the article that it wont be ready for a while yet. I think the most important part about this machine is that not only can it create fuel we use now, but if we start making a shift towards hydrogen fuel we'll already have a way to create it with nothing more then water, air, and some iron oxide (rust?)
Kudos to Sandia National Labs for this amazing breakthrough!
I READ the article.
Let me dumb it down for you.
The fuel produced by this system will be used for either running a vehicle or produce electricity right?
You can also run a car w/ electricity from a solar plant right?
Or you can use electricity produced by a solar panel to produce the same kind of fuel as this system right?
So energy can be converted to different forms easily right?
So this means what is really important between this system and a regular solar panel is efficiency eventually.
now if only we cuold find some sort of plant that can do this.
This device is very clever, but will never likely produce fuel on an economically sustainable basis. That's the basic problem with most green power technologies. The laws of physics and chemistry must cooperate with the laws of economics.
Weren't any of you readers suspicious when the inventors say they have a working prototype, but it won't be ready for commercial use for at least a decade? The transportation fuels market is worth trillions annually. If this device had even a remote chance of being cost effective, there would be billions of dollars available tomorrow for its development.
So it's a heat exchanger that makes a questionable amount of syngas. I agree with seth, there is no shortage of places with large amounts of CO2 and waste heat. I should think an intermediate step before going "super green" and solely solar would be more simple. But hey, I'm an engineer what do I know?
@FB36.... No, really not. You cannot hook up a solar panel to a vehicle that is already using gas as a power source. What about countries less developed then ours? Could have a much bigger market there.
Also, you make something of a point with your ranting about efficiency, but why just narrow it down to solar panels. What about wind, hydro, fuel cells, osmosis, tidal power generation.... Very few of the environmentally friendly forms of power generation are economically viable, they're simply in a stage of development, much like this technology.
As for the most important part, I'll state again (as if I wasn't already echoing the FIRST paragraph in this article) is the ability to produce hydrogen. Maybe you've been hiding in a cave for the past 20 odd years, but fuel cells have a LOT of potential, and one of the major problems plaguing a possible shift to fuel cells is our ability to produce bountiful amounts of hydrogen.
If you want to be stuck in a world where solar and wind energy are simply ways of toning down our carbon emissions, then feel free. I'd like to see fuel cells become a realistic form of energy, so any technology that can help us along the way is welcomed.
The process that we really need is to use Nuclear Heat & Electricity to convert CO2 + water into Methanol/DME for fuel. The urgency is to replace Oil - World Production just peaked July 08 and Methanol / DME is the best alternative to Oil -> Gasoline & Diesel.
To get started vast quantities of Natural gas can be converted to Methanol / DME at a cost of 3.1 cents per liter.
i heard of another type of device that turns water, CO2, and sunlight into fuel. It was called a TREE!
The CO2 sequestration into a fuel sounds interesting. The concept of making hydrogen is a joke. Apparently no one commented on the fact that <1% of the worlds water is potable, moreover having to treat water to whatever usable standard for this hydrogen production is most likely cost inefficient; reverse osmosis filtration, desalination, or primary/secondary/tertiary waste water could be used, but at what cost monetarily or environmentally to secure "usable and clean" water?
Why is everything always at least a decade away? It only took the US 8 years to put a man on the moon from conception to action. If we already have a working model here, why not 5 years? Or less? I hate this "at least a decade away" rule of thumb. Let's get it done in 3, huh? It'd be nice to escape dependence on foreign oil. This could be the modern equivalent of the 1849 Gold Rush so why not treat it as such?
The cost wouldn't be something to worry about because we could use recycled metal because the article said they use rust, so that would be a double plus
This is similar to a science fair project I did a few years ago. I used an aluminum alloy to take away the oxygen molecules from water, sinces aluminum oxidizes easily. All that was left was pure hydrogen fuel... I wonder if they could combine the two systems in any way...
concept has been around for a long time - Sandia's work published as early as 2006 so what have they been doing since then? March 10, 2006, www.treehugger.com has picture of the supposed solar collector and references Sandia news release - that was in Feb 2006.
altest news does not indicate whether they have actually tested the system yet. Also no indication of conversion rates or efficiency. Looks like just another great idea stuck in the lab with annual funding to feed researchers.
Trying this again
Green crude from plants
Butanol from plants
What fascinates me about all this is no discussion of the overall energy balance and that's the only thing that is important. Converting one form of energy to another costs something. (Second law of thermo from HS physics).What is the yield? What is the cost of the equipment? How much energy does it take to manufacture the equipment? The metals needed to make it? Energy to maintain it? The better safe than sorry argument is dangerous. If the cycles we see in global warning are more natural than man made, intervention on our part may actually make things worse at great cost to civilization. Let's get the science right and the basic energy balance right! Let's not forget what we already know.
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