A whole lot of planet Earth’s problems could be solved if we had some easy way of recapturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into readily usable fuel. Obviously.
There exists a hard way of doing this involving the usage of prohibitively expensive catalysts to flip carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which can then be combined with hydrogen resulting in everyday fuels like kerosene and gasoline. Via this hard way, the nature of the required catalysts—extra stuff needed to make reactions occur more quickly—makes it so that you’re putting in more energy to break down the CO2 than you’re getting in return.
In a paper published Monday in Nature Energy, researchers from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) describe a new catalyst for splitting carbon dioxide that, in their words, is the foundation for the first ever low-cost carbon-dioxide splitting system. It relies on two materials, tin oxide and copper oxide, both of which are readily abundant on Earth, and offers a CO2 to CO conversion efficiency of nearly 14 percent.