From CO2 to Valuable Carbon Nanofibers
In 2015, a research team from the George Washington University presented a technology that converts CO2 (directly from the air) into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products.
The strong nanofibers can be used for strong carbon composites which are used in planes, bikes, wind turbine blades and space equipments.
The researchers presented their low- energy, high-efficiency process during the 250th American Chemical Society, August 2015. This low-energy process can be run efficiently, using only a few volts of electricity, sunlight, and a whole lot of carbon dioxide. The system uses electrolytic syntheses to make the nanofibers.
CO2 to Carbon Nanofibers process
- To power the syntheses, heat and electricity are produced through a hybrid and extremely efficient concentrating solar-energy system.
The system focuses the sun’s rays on a photovoltaic solar cell to generate electricity and on a second system to generate heat and thermal energy, which raises the temperature of an electrolytic cell.
- CO2 is broken down in a high-temperature electrolytic bath of molten carbonates at 1,380 degrees F (750 degrees C).
- Atmospheric air is added to an electrolytic cell.
- The CO2 dissolves when subjected to the heat and direct current through electrodes of nickel and steel.
- The carbon nanofibers build up on the steel electrode, where they can be removed.
For the process, the team used solar thermal energy. Including the electrochemical process, the costs are about $1,000 per ton of carbon nanofiber product. That means the cost of running the system is hundreds of times less than the value of product output.
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