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Researchers create one-step fuel conversion process

Co2 Conversion

Scientists at UTA recently developed simple and inexpensive new fuel technology that could help limit global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Led by Frederick MacDonnell, chair of the Chemistry and Biochemistry Department, and Brian Dennis, mechanical and aerospace engineering professor, the team has proven that concentrated light, heat, and high pressures can drive the one-step conversion of carbon dioxide and water directly into usable liquid hydrocarbon fuels. Their findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year.

"We are the first to use both light and heat to synthesize liquid hydrocarbons in a single-stage reactor from carbon dioxide and water," says Dr. Dennis. "Concentrated light drives the photochemical reaction, which generates high-energy intermediates and heat to induce thermochemical carbon-chain-forming reactions, thus producing hydrocarbons in a single-step process."

This process also reverts oxygen back into the system as a byproduct of the reaction, which should provide further positive environmental impact.

"Our technology has an important advantage over battery- or gaseous-hydrogen-powered vehicle technologies," says Dr. MacDonnell. "Since many of the hydrocarbon products from our reaction are exactly what we use in cars, trucks, and planes, there would be no need to change the current fuel distribution system."

Their research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Robert A. Welch Foundation. Additionally, Greenway Innovative Energy recently committed $750,000 to the University to establish the F. Conrad Greer Lab, which will allow the team to continue their important work.

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