Scientists Make Ethanol Without Corn or Other Crops
by Will Dunham (Reuters Africa) … The scientists said their process turns carbon monoxide gas into liquid ethanol with the help of an electrode made of a form of copper. They said the new technique may be more environmentally friendly and efficient than the current method.
Critics say that growing crops for biofuels is energy-intensive and takes up vast tracts of nonagricultural land, using too much water and fertilizer. They also say diverting corn and sugar to make biofuels pushes up food prices.
A group of scientists led by Stanford University chemist Matthew Kanan described the new method in research published in the journal Nature. Matthew Kanan said a prototype device could be ready in two to three years, enabling an assessment on whether the process can become commercially viable.
Matthew Kanan and his colleagues built an electrochemical cell – a device consisting of two electrodes that were put in water saturated with carbon monoxide gas. One of the electrodes was made of a material they call “oxide-derived copper. When voltage was applied across the electrodes, the carbon monoxide gas was converted into ethanol, Matthew Kanan and his colleagues said.
The researchers hope to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to carbon monoxide, which then would be fed into the copper-oxide catalyst. The researchers hope the catalytic cell would be powered by a renewable energy source such as solar or wind. READ MORE Abstract