Using concentrated solar energy, researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are building a prototype device that can chemically re-energize carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide can then be used to produce hydrogen or help synthesize a liquid combustible fuel such as methanol, gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.
The prototype device is called a Counter Rotating Receiver Reactor Recuperator, or CR5. It breaks a carbon-oxygen bond in the carbon dioxide, converting it into carbon monoxide and oxygen in two steps. It is a key element in an approach to convert carbon dioxide into fuel from sunlight. The ability to synthesize liquid fuel from carbon dioxide is considered significant because it fits in with the current gasoline and oil infrastructure.
"What's exciting about this invention is that it will result in fossil fuels being used at least twice, meaning less carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere and a reduction of the rate that fossil fuels are pulled out of the ground," said Rich Diver, a Sandia scientist who created the CR5 prototype. He expects to complete the prototype device early next year, and then use it to synthesize carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen.