A group of researchers claims that they were able to fulfill what majority of scientists and government officials have long dreamt - transforming the most widespread greenhouse gas called carbon dioxide (CO2) into something beneficial. Specifically, they stated that they were able to come up with a technology that can economically turn atmospheric CO2 directly into carbon nanofibers, which may be used for industrial and commercial purposes.

In the past, the scientists were able to develop a cement product and a fertilizer without having to release CO2. Now, the same team of researchers headed by Stuart Licht, Ph.D. from George Washington University, with the addition of Jiawen Ren, Ph.D. and Jessica Stuart, a graduate student, says that their work can create the highly-demanded carbon nanofibers from one of the most rampant global-warming element there is.

Dubbed by Licht as the "diamonds from the sky" project, their work boasts high efficiency in terms of its low requirement for electrical volts and more reliance on sunlight and heaps of carbon dioxide. Their research involves the disintegration of CO2 through the use of a high-temperature electrolytic bath made up of smelted carbonates at 750 degrees Celsius (1,380 degrees Fahrenheit). The researchers then add in atmospheric air to an electrolytic cell. The CO2 will eventually disappear as the heat and direct currents from steel and nickel electrodes are infused into it. Finally, the steel fibers will house in the carbon nanofibers, which can be extracted thereafter.

The electrolytic syntheses are mechanized by electricity and heat developed by a highly-efficient concentrating solar energy system. Electricity is developed by the system's action of targeting the sun's rays on a photovoltaic solar cell. Heat, on the other hand, is generated on a second system to increase the temperature of the cell.

"We have found a way to use atmospheric CO2 to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers," says Licht, Ph.D. The nanofibers developed by the team are being utilized in the manufacturing of advanced sports equipment, wind turbine blades and air jetliners such as the Boeing Dreamliner, among many others.

The research group will present their study at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) on Thursday, Aug 20.

Photo: Ken Mist | Flickr

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