Researchers from The University of Texas at Arlington are pioneering a new method for using carbon dioxide, or CO2, to make liquid methanol fuel by using copper oxide nanowires and sunlight.

The process is safer, simpler and less expensive than previous methods to convert the greenhouse gas associated with climate change to a useful product, said the reseracher involved. Researchers began by coating the walls of copper oxide, CuO, nanorods with crystallites made from another form of copper oxide, Cu2O. In the lab, they submerged those rods in a water-based solution rich in CO2. Irradiating the combination with simulated sunlight created a photoelectrochemical reduction of the CO2 and that produced methanol.

In contrast, current methods require the use of a co-catalyst and must be conducted at high operating pressures and temperatures. Many also use toxic elements, such as cadmium, or rare elements, such as tellurium, the researcher said.

“As long as we are using fossil fuels, we’ll have the question of what to do with the carbon dioxide,” said the researcher. “An attractive option would be to convert greenhouse gases to liquid fuel. That’s the value-added option.”

The researcher said he hopes that others will build on the research involving copper oxide nanotubes, CO2 and sunlight.

This story is reprinted from material from The University of Texas at Arlington, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.