A News Environment Technology — 27 August 2016

While companies and governments across the world are working to reduce emissions, invent and use clean-burning fuels all in an effort to reduce the dumping of 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a group of researchers at the University of Toronto may have just figured out how to save the planet.

Canadian scientists believe they’ve found a way to convert carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere into an energy-rich fuel by using the 2nd most abundant element on earth – silicon, which is readily abundant in sand.  This has the University of Toronto researchers saying they may, “save the planet from climate change with a grain of sand.”

“A chemistry solution to climate change requires a material that is a highly active and selective catalyst to enable the conversion of carbon dioxide to fuel. It also needs to be made of elements that are low cost, non-toxic and readily available,” said Geoffrey Ozin, a chemistry professor in U of T’s Faculty of Arts & Science, the Canada Research Chair in Materials Chemistry and lead of U of T’s Solar Fuels Research Cluster.

In an article published in Nature Communications, Ozin reported that “The hydride-terminated silicon nanocrystals – nanostructured hydrides for short – have an average diameter of 3.5 nanometers and feature a surface area and optical absorption strength sufficient to efficiently harvest the near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet wavelengths of light from the sun together with a powerful chemical-reducing agent on the surface that efficiently and selectively converts gaseous carbon dioxide to gaseous carbon monoxide.”

What that means, according to the authors, is that they can convert carbon dioxide into energy without harmful emissions.

“Making use of the reducing power of nanostructured hydrides is a conceptually distinct and commercially interesting strategy for making fuels directly from sunlight,” said Ozin.

The U of T Solar Fuels Research Cluster says it is “working to find ways and means to increase the activity, enhance the scale, and boost the rate of production” with the goal to pilot a solar refinery.


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