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Environment & Energy

Reseacher Finds Possible Way to Make CO2 Into Energy

CO2 emissions accounted for 82 percent of all U.S. human greenhouse gases in 2012, and with renewable fuels becoming more and more popular researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have asked how to dispose of CO2, and maybe make it into a renewable fuel.

Past efforts to convert CO2 consumed more fuel than they produced according to John Keith, an R.K. Mellon faculty fellow in energy.

“One of the hindrances that a lot of scientists have is how do you make a very efficient process, and so a lot of people look to nature and they try to develop models that are based off of nature and so this is something where we sort of stumbled backwards,” said Keith.

His idea is to use atomic-N-heterocycles (ANH), which are found in most laboratories, in their stable form to break down CO2 much like a natural catalyst. Before breaking down CO2, ANH becomes similar to a biomolecule that could be used to store energy and for renewable fuel.

These behaviors were observed by using a computing model, and now researchers are working to find out if Keith’s ideas will hold true.

“It’s basically a pie in the sky. We can figure out any process and use human ingenuity to develop catalysts that behave like natures redox catalysts to do this, and the insights from our study are just a template on how to do that,” said Keith. 

Keith says he expects data from these experiments to be released within the next 1-2 years.