Researchers from UT 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 Krishnan Rajeshwar, interim associate vice president for research at UT Arlington and one of the authors of a paper recently published in the journal Chemical Communications. 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, Rajeshwar said.
"As long as we are using fossil fuels, we'll have the question of what to do with the carbon dioxide," said Rajeshwar, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry and co-founder of the Center for Renewable Energy, Science & Technology, CREST, at UT Arlington. "An attractive option would be to convert greenhouse gases to liquid fuel. That's the value-added option."
Co-authors on the recently published paper, "Efficient solar photoelectrosynthesis of methanol from carbon dioxide using hybrid CuO-Cu2O semiconductor nanorod arrays," are Ghazaleh Ghadimkhani, Norma Tacconi, Wilaiwan Chanmanee and Csaba Janaky, all of the UT Arlington College of Science's Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and CREST. Janaky also has a permanent appointment at the University of Szeged in Hungary.
Rajeshwar said he hopes that others will build on the research involving copper oxide nanotubes, CO2 and sunlight.
"Addressing tomorrow's energy needs and finding ways to stem the harmful effect of greenhouse gases are areas where UT Arlington scientists can