Scientists just accidentally figured out how to turn CO2 into fuel in a breakthrough study

co2 ethanol
YouTube/Oak Ridge
National Laboratory

In a serendipitous accident, scientists in Tennessee
they have converted carbon dioxide into ethanol.

The researchers, who work at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge
National Laboratory, developed a process that adds “nano-spikes”
(essentially tiny bursts) of carbon and copper to CO2 to
transform it into ethanol, the type of alcohol found in hand
sanitizer and alcoholic drinks. 

Ethanol can also be turned into fuel (gasoline in Brazil already
contains more than 25% ethanol), which is why the
scientists are calling the discovery a “twist to waste-to-fuel

co2 ethanol
The carbon nanoparticles
(seen above as circles) combine with carbon nanospikes to turn
into ethanol.

YouTube/Oak Ridge
National Laboratory

We discovered somewhat by accident that this material
ORNL’s Adam Rondinone, lead author of
the team’s study,
 in a press release
. “We were trying to
study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realized that
the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own.”

The team’s experiment was meant to be one part of a
longer research project investigating how to turn CO2 into
ethanol; the researchers figured the process would require
multiple steps and complicated chemical reactions.

 it turned out to be a lot easier than they
thought: they only needed

a single catalyst (copper)
to transform the CO2.

The discovery is a major breakthrough, considering the
process turns 

carbon dioxide —
one of the leading air pollutants
to climate change — into fuel, which in
turn generates
more CO2
 that could be turned back into more fuel.
(Burning a gallon of diesel fuel produces about
of CO2.) If
 the technology
becomes cost-efficient and widely available, it could
provide a new carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuel

There’s no word yet on whether the discovery will
leave the lab, however.

Watch the scientists explain below:

from SAI