Santa Barbara, California-based Carbon Sciences has developed what it claims is a breakthrough technology that can recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) into petrol, providing a viable alternative to carbon sequestration.
Some of the known approaches for CO2 to fuel recycling include direct photolysis, which uses intense light energy to break off the oxygen atoms in CO2, and chemically reacting carbon dioxide gas with hydrogen gas (H2) to create methane or methanol.
Both of these conventional engineering approaches, at least according to Carbon Sciences, require immense energy due to high-pressure and high-temperature chemical processes and are therefore high in cost.
The Carbon Sciences process, on the other hand, can recycle large quantities of CO2 into gaseous and liquid fuels using a proprietary multi-step biocatalytic process. Instead of using expensive inorganic catalysts, such as zinc, gold or zeolite in traditional high-energy catalytic chemical processes, its process uses inexpensive, renewable biomolecules to catalyse the chemical reactions that are required to transform CO2 and water (H2O) into fuel molecules.
Of greatest significance, the process occurs at low temperature and low pressure, thereby requiring far less energy than the alternative approaches.
The biocatalytic processes the company is exploiting actually occur in certain micro-organisms where carbon atoms, extracted from CO2, and hydrogen atoms, extracted from H2O, are combined to create hydrocarbon molecules. The company's process replicates this on a very large industrial scale.
To help it further develop the technology, the company has recently applied for funding from the US Department of Energy, which issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement in June specifically for spurring research and investments in technologies to mitigate CO2 emissions.