January 30, 2009

Sunlit nanotubes turn water and CO2 into fuel

Coat titanium oxide nanotubes with nanoscale bits of copper and platinum and you can make hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight.

The coated nanotubes use the energy from sunlight to catalyze reactions of carbon dioxide and water that produce hydrocarbons, including methane. The process yielded 160 microliters of hydrocarbons per gallon per hour in outdoor sunlight.

Though the amount of hydrocarbons is small 160 microliters is about three drops -- it's 20 times higher than previous efforts, which used ultraviolet light indoors, according to the researchers.

The technique could lead to environmentally benign methods of producing liquid fuels for fuel cells and vehicles.

Research paper:
High-Rate Solar Photocatalytic Conversion of CO2 and Water Vapor to Hydrocarbon Fuels
Nano Letters, published online January 27, 2009

Researchers' homepages:
Oomman K. Varghese
Craig A. Grimes

Further info:
Q & A: Penn State's Craig Grimes

Back to ERN February 9/16, 2009



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