Hope With Curiosity – Carbon Nanofibers Counter Carbon Threat

 Majid Ali, M.D.

Nanotube Technology Counters the Looming Carbon Threat

Hope With Curiosity Series

Science has been a benefactor of humankind, notwithstanding its perversion by some malignant minds. . Without doubt it will continue to do more. Why would it not? Human curiosity endures despite unrelenting efforts to squash it. I offer this my Hope With Curiosity Series for the curious minds.

Solar Reactor Technology.

In September, 2015, came a most encouraging report: precious solid carbon nanofibers were developed from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. It was achieved with advances in solar reactor technology.

The previous technology could turn CO2 into a solid carbon material called amorphous carbon, which is worth some $1000 per metric ton. The nanofibers prepared with the new solar technology is expected to yield products worth $25,000 per metric ton of the gas. Economy of scale is likely to explode this benefit in coming decades.

Carbon nanofibers are expected to be used widely for making lightweight, high-strength composites for applications in automotive and airplane industries among others.

Science Article Reproduced

For individuals interested in the deatils, below, I reproduce below the full article from the journal Science of 11 September 2015.

Conjuring chemical cornucopias out of thin air by Robert F. Service

A fill-up at the gas station may seem expensive, but fuels are relatively cheap commodities. So would-be makers of solar fuels are looking for ways to apply their technology to making more valuable materials.

Last month, for example, Stuart Licht, a chemist at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues reported in Nano Letters that they had developed a version of their solar reactor technology (see main story, p. 1158) that can take CO2 out of the air and convert it into solid carbon nanofibers. The researchers found that when they added trace amounts of either nickel, copper, cobalt, or iron to their electrolysis cell, the metals form tiny islands on the cathode that then serve as landing sites for thousands of split-off carbon atoms to insert themselves and quickly grow into long, thin fibers. Licht’s team had previously shown they could turn CO2 into a solid carbon material called amorphous carbon, which is worth some $1000 per metric ton. But carbon nanofibers could be worth far more, perhaps as much as $25,000 per metric ton, because they are widely used in making lightweight, high-strength composites for applications such as car bumpers and airplane parts. “We are making a valuable commodity that we hope will produce a driving force for using this technology,” Licht says.

Others are pursuing the same strategy. A small New Jersey-based company called Liquid Light is working to commercialize technology for converting CO2 into ethylene glycol, a commodity chemical with a $27 billion annual market. Another company, Skyonic, recently opened a demonstration plant in Texas that turns CO2 into baking soda, hydrochloric acid, and bleach.

Such commodities aren’t manufactured on a scale anywhere near that of gasoline and other transportation fuels. So making them with CO2 siphoned off a smokestack or pulled from the air isn’t likely to make a sizable impact on global atmospheric CO2 levels, says Matthew Kanan, a chemist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who is working to convert CO2 into plastics and other higher value commodities. However, he says, “Perhaps we can use that as a stepping stone.” With time and experience, companies may then find way to improve their processes, lower their costs, and begin to make high-volume, low-cost compounds such as fuels. “I’m a technology optimist,” Kanan says.

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