Researchers from the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) in Australia say they have found a cheaper and more efficient way of converting CO2 into chemicals and a usable fuel.

In a breakthrough, recently published in Nature Communications, the University’s scientists said the process involves electrochemical conversion, pinpointing the new materials needed to kick-start the desired reaction.

Lead researcher Dr. Lei Ge said his team had focused on one of the electrocatalysts (aka the ‘spark’).

“Fossil-fuel driven processes currently dominate the chemical and fuel manufacturing industry, relying on large non-renewable sources such as coal or oil,” he said.

“A possible sustainable future could integrate renewable energy from more plentiful small gas molecules, for example carbon dioxide.”

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Source: University of Southern Queensland

“An important part of that process is an electrocatalyst called the anodic oxygen evolution reaction, but a drawback has been the expense and scarcity of the precious metals traditionally used to make it work.”

Ge and his team have found an alternative to the costly technology and their research shows it works even better.

“Instead of precious metals, we’re investigating a ceramic-based oxide which is more stable and more efficient in sparking the necessary chemical reaction,” Ge said.

“This project is significant because it aims to overcome critical issues in electrochemical technologies that could potentially produce, using renewable energy sources, a wide range of chemicals (fuels, fertilisers, chemical feedstocks) needed by industry and society.”

The University of Southern Queensland research is part of an Australian Research Council Linkage project in collaboration with the University of Queensland.