Researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a new solar-powered system to convert greenhouse gases and plastic waste into sustainable fuel. The new solar-powered reactor could have applications for many industries.
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“Converting waste into something useful using solar energy is a major goal of our research,” said Erwin Reisner, a professor in the University of Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, as reported by The Independent. “Plastic pollution is a huge problem worldwide, and often much of the plastic we put in recycling bins is incinerated or ends up in landfill.”
Related: Revolutionary energy with perovskite solar cells
This new reactor is particularly important because it is the first to simultaneously transform two different waste streams – plastic and CO2 – into two separate chemical products. The secret is a so-called miracle material called perovskite, which some people predict will revolutionize the solar industry.
Perovskite is nothing new. Gustav Rose, a Russian scientist working at the University of Berlin, discovered the mineral in 1839 in the Ural Mountains of Russia. The mineral, named after the Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski, is composed of calcium titanium oxide (CaTiO)2). Scientists have been fooling around with it for about two centuries now. But it wasn’t until around 2000 that new solar cell manufacturing processes based on perovskite really took off. Materials scientists are excited about using perovskite because it is so abundant in nature.
Before the University of Cambridge researchers developed this new system, there was no way to selectively and efficiently convert CO2 into high-value products.
“A solar-powered technology that can help address plastic pollution and greenhouse gases at the same time could be a game changer in the development of a circular economy,” says Subhajit Bhattacharjee of the University of Cambridge, as reported by The Independent. “What’s special about this system is the versatility and adjustability – we’re currently making fairly simple carbon-based molecules, but in the future we may be able to tune the system to make much more complex products, just by changing the catalyst.”
Via The Independent, Science Direct and ACS
Lead image via WikiCommons