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New Hope for Climate Change: Scientists Convert Carbon Dioxide to Fuel Using Sand

Aug 29, 2016 05:06 AM EDT

Good news! In the fight against climate change, a team of scientists has finally solved the puzzle on hod to convert carbon dioxide to fuel by using the most ordinary thing -- sand.

According to the study published in the journal Nature Communications, scientists from the University of Toronto claims that they have found the solution to convert the 30 billion tons per year of carbon dioxide emission to energy-rich fuel. What make the study exciting is that it uses silicon in sand, which is one of the most abundant elements in earth and the universe.

The scientists notes that silicon nanocrystals tick all the criteria to convert gaseous carbon dioxide. At 3.5 nanometers, these nanocrystals has the ability for optically absorb and harvest near-infrared, visible and ultraviolet waves from the sun. Also, its surface has a chemical-reducing agent that could turn carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, potentially resulting into energy sans harmful emissions.

"A chemistry solution to climate change requires a material that is a highly active and selective catalyst to enable the conversion of carbon dioxide to fuel. It also needs to be made of elements that are low cost, non-toxic and readily available," Geoffrey Ozin from the University of Toronto and lead of the university's Solar Fuels Research, told Science Daily.

There have been numerous research in the past decades that aim to discover a material that could convert energy directly from carbon dioxide, water and the sun, but the problem is carbon dioxide's chemical stability, which makes it harder for scientists to come up with a solution.

Now, with this new discovery, Ozin explains that the process of utilizing the ability of silicon nanocrystals or nanosctructure hydrides offers a promising way of harnessing energy from sunlight. He believes that despite the bad reputation of carbon dioxide, it is still "an asset, not a liability."

“Why not use it as much as you can? You could build a global economy on a resource that’s all around us. And if you happen to use gigatons every year, then you could keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at sustainable levels indefinitely," Ozin said via U of T Magazine.

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