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Mar 11, 2017 07:28 AM EST

Indiana University Scientists Create Molecule That Converts Carbon Dioxide To Monoxide

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Scientists led by Indiana University's Liang-shi Li was able to achieve a new milestone in the field of recycling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into carbon-neutral fuels as well as other materials. They have developed a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas, into carbon monoxide, which is a carbon-neutral fuel source.

This process is said to be more efficient than any other method of "carbon reduction." The researchers published their study in the "Journal of the American Chemical Society," Phys.org reported.

Li, who is an associate professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Chemistry, said that creating a molecule that's efficient enough for the reduction can produce energy that's free and storable in the form of fuels. Burning carbon monoxide, or other fuel, produces carbon dioxide and releases energy.

The same energy is needed to turn carbon dioxide into fuel. This has become a major goal among scientists in order to decrease the excess energy needed.

The molecule that Li and his colleagues engineered was able to get the least amount of energy required to drive the formation of carbon monoxide. They created a nanographene-rhenium complex connected via an organic compound known as bipyridine which triggers an efficient reaction that converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide.

According to The Marshalltown, the molecule has a two-part system. One has nanographene, which acts as an energy collector that absorbs energy from sunlight. The second part involves an atomic rhenium "engine" which is responsible for producing carbon monoxide. With this, the first part delivers a stream of electrons while the second rhenium atom binds and converts carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.

The researchers got the idea of linking nanographene and rhenium from an earlier work by Li. Previous works used complexes of bipyridine and metal to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide using sunlight.

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