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Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby Dybbuk » Wed 19 Oct 2016, 12:18:47

I just saw this article and wondered if this was a big deal or not. It obviously doesn't do much to solve the problem of scarce energy in general, but it could specifically address the liquid fuels problem if it makes it more efficient to convert raw energy into ethanol. I thought someone with a better handle on the science could chime in.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/science ... o-ethanol/

BTW, I thought about posting this in the ethanol thread of the Energy Technology board, but then I realized it might not be seen by many people over there.
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Re: Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 19 Oct 2016, 13:31:11

There is a conceptual problem here. The ethanol thus created is NOT A SOURCE OF ENERGY. At best, this is a means of storing some of the energy created from off-peak burning of FF's (which is where the concentrated carbon dioxide comes from) for use in peak energy demand periods.

You see, to extract carbon dioxide already dispersed into the atmosphere, where it is present in low concentrations well under 1% (i.e. 400 ppm), requires enormous energy expenditures. So this technique, even if 100% successful and twice as efficient as the most optimistic estimate in the above article, is NOT a means of sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide. Furthermore, if you burn the ethanol as fuel, the vehicle is in motion and dispersing the carbon dioxide and water vapor (even more potent of a GHG than carbon dioxide) throughout the atmosphere.

Net/Net this is a zero sum game. But a possible partial replacement for oil-sourced vehicle fuels, and a possible alternative to Lithium Ion or Lithium Polymer or other exotic battery technologies in stationary energy storage, where one theoretically could recapture the carbon dioxide from burning the ethanol.

Worth further research, to see if the laboratory results scale up to power plant size. Having coal power plants produce vehicle fuel as a by-product has a certain elegance to the very concept.
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Re: Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby ROCKMAN » Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:04:47

D - They may have recently developed a NEW method that might be more economic but methods of doing it have been known for decades. As KJ says it boils down to costs. The Germans knew how to make synthetic oil over 70 years ago. CO2 can be converted into a variety of products that won't affect the climate. The only question is who will pay for the process?
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Re: Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Wed 19 Oct 2016, 14:21:18

There are exciting prospects on the horizon when you include GMOs in your thinking. Perhaps some combination of GMO algae and GMO bacteria could sequester atmospheric carbon dioxide and produce a plastic precursor to replace petrochemical feedstocks, for example.

The problem with the whole idea of being innovative is the Luddites. One upon a time, nuclear energy was fresh and innovative, and then 10,000 Hollywood productions about atomic mutants were made, followed by The China Syndrome. Now we have like hysteria over GMOs.
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Re: Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby tita » Thu 20 Oct 2016, 12:41:53

Interesting. But somebody already discovered something very similar, which was published in "nature":
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/apri ... 40914.html

A way to capture CO2 and use it to store excess energy from intermittent renewables is very important for what could become a sustainable future. Even now, ethanol is part (5%) of the gas we put in our ICE. Let's see if it happens.
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Re: Scientists Discover Process to Turn CO2 into ethanol

Unread postby KaiserJeep » Thu 20 Oct 2016, 15:55:58

Yes, I have read multiple accounts of such laboratory scale "breakthroughs" in my lifetime. The vast majority do not scale up to useful size and get abandoned. That is not to say that we should not be funding R&D on new energy sources and energy storage - obviously we must, if we are going to survive with any semblance of the energy-intensive lifestyles we have today.
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