The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced on November 9 that a research team led by professor Song Hyun-joon of the Chemistry Department developed a metallic oxide hybrid optical nanocatalyst that converts carbon dioxides in carbonated water into 99% pure methane fuel by using sunlight. This technological breakthrough is expected to greatly contribute to solving both global warming and energy problems at the same time.
In academia, research on the conversion of carbon dioxide regarded as the main cause of global warming, is in full swing. The key of the research is to develop highly efficient catalysts as it is difficult to convert carbon dioxides, a very stable material, into other molecules.
The research team synthesized zinc oxide nanoparticles which are mainly used in sun cream and then created nanostructures by increasing copper oxides on the surface. Copper oxides generate electrons with high energy when exposed to light, which converts carbon dioxide dissolved in carbonated water into methane. Using a nanochemical synthesis method, the team constantly adjusted the catalyst particle structure and maintained a wide surface area. This structure is superior to those of conventional catalysts. The reaction time was more than ten times longer and the carbon dioxide conversion activity in an aqueous solution increased several hundred-fold.
"Experiments enabled us to obtain 99% pure methane out of carbon dioxides. If we can precisely control the catalyst structure at the nano level, it will greatly boost photocatalytic reaction efficiency and significantly help principle research," said a representative of the research team.
The KAIST explained that this study was quite meaningful in that the study developed a chemical energy storage method that greatly enhanced reaction efficiency and selectivity by using cheap catalytic materials. A related paper was published in the November 7 online edition of Nature Communications.