Solar Power Generates Methanol From CO2 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 91 Issue 3 | p. 26 | Concentrates
Issue Date: January 21, 2013

Solar Power Generates Methanol From CO2

Hybrid copper oxide nanorods convert sunlight to photocurrent for driving electrochemical transformations
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Nano SCENE, Materials SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: photoelectrochemistry, methanol, copper oxide, solar array
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HYBRID NANORODS
A two-step process (left) produces CuO nanorods and coats them with Cu2O crystallites (a). This series of SEM images shows the evolution of the CuO nanorod morphology (b) as the Cu2O electrodeposition process continues for 1 (c), 10 (d), and 30 minutes (e).
Credit: Chem. Commun.
Graphic on the left and SEM images on the right show: A two-step process (left) produces CuO nanorods and coats them with Cu2O crystallites (a). This series of SEM images shows the evolution of the CuO nanorod morphology (b) as the Cu2O electrodeposition process continues for 1(c), 10 (d), and 30 minutes (e).
 
HYBRID NANORODS
A two-step process (left) produces CuO nanorods and coats them with Cu2O crystallites (a). This series of SEM images shows the evolution of the CuO nanorod morphology (b) as the Cu2O electrodeposition process continues for 1 (c), 10 (d), and 30 minutes (e).
Credit: Chem. Commun.

Arrays of copper oxide nanowires can convert CO2 to methanol with high efficiency in a solar-powered electrochemical device, according to researchers at the University of Texas, Arlington (Chem. Commun., DOI: 10.1039/c2cc38068d). The study may lead to methods that use low-cost, Earth-abundant materials to transform CO2, a greenhouse gas, to valuable products. Texas chemists Ghazaleh Ghadimkhani, Norma Tacconi, Krishnan Rajeshwar, and coworkers used a thermal process to grow CuO nanorods and an electrodeposition method to coat the rods with crystallites of a related oxide, Cu2O. The team selected the copper oxides because of their complementary electronic properties, broad solar absorption spectra, and high electrocatalytic activity. They fashioned electrodes from the nanorods, immersed the electrodes in CO2-rich aqueous solutions, and irradiated the solutions with simulated sunlight to generate a photocurrent. Tests show that the setup quickly generates methanol with 95% electrochemical (photoelectron-transfer) efficiency. In addition, the reaction runs without the overpotential (excess energy input) required by other electrochemical systems that convert CO2 to methanol.

 
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