Due to the annual trend of an increase in global carbon dioxide emissions, it has now manifested itself as something that exists in abundance. While it is of course a knee jerk reaction to look at the negative effects of this, whether it be in the long term or in the short term, potential benefits should not be completely discounted. Perhaps “benefits” is not the right word but more so… ability to capitalize on it. After all, just like any material on earth, carbon dioxide can quickly be seen as a resource rather than a waste product if applied to the proper endeavor. For example, Researchers at Lund University in Sweden found in a study that there is potential way to use solar power in order to convert carbon dioxide into fuel.

It is explained in simplest terms as a two step process. Initially, solar power is absorbed by panels, and using “ultra fast laser spectroscopy“, the researches are able to understand how to use said absorbed sun rays in order to convert carbon dioxide into fuel. Through this process, they learned that by adding a material that they had studied – covalent organic framework – the mechanism they created will be able to take in sunlight at a much more efficient rate than without it. In order to ensure that there would be no extra energy used, a catalytic complex was added to the covalent organic framework. The result of this strenuous, though short, process is the conversion of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide.

Installing solar panels | A solar panel is lifted into place… | Flickr

There were other components that contributed to the result of this study as well. As explained by Kaibo Zheng, one of the researchers at Lund University who specializes in chemistry, “The conversion to carbon monoxide requires two electrons”. Due to this, it drove the researchers to see how they could access electrons with exceptional longevity and energy levels. Thus, further measures were taken, and it was found that photons with blue light were best at producing electrons with these preferred characteristics. Once these electrons were accessed, the covalent organic framework could then be charged with them so that they can properly execute their intended task.

While this study was performed on a small scale, the results of it allows for it to be done on a much larger, and potentially global stage. More often than not when it comes to innovation, the most significant obstacle is if the task can be done. With these results, we now know that it is, and that’s half the battle.

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