Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous green house gas that has risen in concentration in our atmosphere over the past decades. It is notorious for displacing the oxygen in our blood and heating up our planet. But what if we could use this notorious pollutant to our advantage? We already have.
Stanford University recently announced that they’ve succeeded in creating a process that involves sucking carbon monoxide gas from the atmosphere and turning it into fuel. The process required a good bit of innovation in a process that is very old; electrolysis. Electrolysis is used to purify metals from oxides, to electroplate metals and to make car batteries. Traditional copper is a very good electrode in electrolysis but for turning carbon monoxide in to fuel, its structure had to be modified.
The electrode used in the process was a nano-crystalline structure of copper oxide. Using a small voltage, the solution of carbon monoxide in water is separated into hydrogen gas at the cathode and oxygen at the anode. The carbon monoxide is transformed in to ethanol.
Ethanol is a viable alternative to petroleum but the problem is that it costs too much to make. It needs to be extracted from plant seeds that are grown very slowly on farms with a lot of water in put and as the whole thing goes, it take 800 gallons of water to produce 3 gallons of ethanol. That is an UNACCEPTABLE figure. This new way is much easier, does wonder for the environment and can be much, much more cost effective.