May 08, 2017

Perhaps a Solution to our CO2 Problems?

Shaun Ho, Production Management Fellow

It seems that every other day we hear some news about the staggering amounts of CO2 entering our atmosphere and the impending consequences of climate change it may have on our environment. Currently the levels of CO2 in our atmosphere are the highest that they have ever been since 1750 – something to be worried about as if CO2 levels continue to rise it may lead to complications such as higher global temperatures, the melting of ice caps, increase in sea levels, ocean acidification, and harsher weather.

With this in mind, any reassurance or technology advancements to prevent the self-destruction of our planet would be gladly accepted, and it seems we have a winner: Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo from the University of Florida. Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo and his team of research assistants seem to have come up with a special way to not only help clean the air up but also simultaneously produce energy from it! His research and method involves artificially triggering the process of photosynthesis (where plants break down carbon dioxide into sugar and energy), to convert greenhouse gases into clean air. Instead of producing sugar like plants do, this artificially induced photosynthesis produces clean “solar fuel” which can be then used for other processes.

This goal of artificially creating photosynthesis has been pursued by many scientists for years, with the challenge of finding a way for visible light to be able to trigger the photosynthesis reaction and it seems that Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo has found the answer to it. Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo and his team used Titanium and organic molecules and created a “Blue LED Photoreactor”. To test his hypothesis, the professor and his team then put measured amounts of carbon dioxide into the reactor and watched in awe as the air was purified and two different types of solar fuel were produced.

This breakthrough is just the beginning and the professor stressed that: “The goal is to continue to fine-tune the approach so we can create greater amounts of reduced carbon so it is more efficient”. He hopes to someday see that this technology could be used in places like power plants whereby “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant. The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.” His research findings have been published in Journal of Materials Chemistry A. The future of our environment doesn’t look too glum now thanks to Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo!

Video of Professor Uribe-Romo's experiment