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This reactor produces sustainable fuels from CO2 and plastic waste
By: Hanah van der Korput
There is an abundance of both CO2 and plastic waste. What if these are turned into something useful? Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found a way to turn CO2 from the air and old plastic into sustainable fuels. This is done in a reactor that works on sunlight.

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The research team developed a reactor that converts captured CO2 and plastic waste into sustainable fuels. In the tests, CO2 was converted into syngas, a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Syngas is an important building block for more sustainable fuels. Plastic bottles were turned into glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetics industry.

How does it work?
The reactor consists of a two part system. On one side is the captured CO2, on the other side is the plastic waste. These are then converted. "The plastic component is an important trick to this system," writes co-author Dr. Motiar Rahaman. “Capturing and using CO2 from the air complicates chemistry. But when we add plastic waste to the system, the plastic donates electrons to the CO2. The plastic breaks down into glycolic acid, which is widely used in the cosmetics industry, and the CO2 is converted into syngas, which is a simple fuel.”

The reactor runs on sunlight. The system is inspired by photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into food. According to the researchers, it is advantageous to use sunlight because it costs no money and is also abundant.
CO2 from the air
The researchers have been working on the development of sustainable fuels for some time. Until recently they put concentrated CO2 into the reactor, but now they have succeeded in extracting CO2 directly from the air. A difficult job, because in addition to CO2, the air also consists of many other elements. They must therefore first be filtered in order to retain the CO2 and release the other gases.

Because CO2 can be extracted directly from the air, the researchers consider their method to be promising. "It has the potential to effectively reduce the concentration of CO2," the researchers said. “In addition, it enables us to use biofuels from now on, which means we can move away from fossil fuels. Finally, it can contribute to more efficient waste recycling, as the reactor also needs plastic waste. We therefore believe it will help with our transition to a greener economy.”

Abundance of resources
Because the method only uses abundant raw materials such as CO2, plastic and sunlight, scaling up is not a problem according to the researchers. "This solar-powered system takes two harmful waste products - plastic and carbon emissions - and converts them into something really useful," the research team said.
  • winnie nguru

    51 w

    Its really encouraging to see the amount of research and commitment around solving the whole issue of plastics.

    • Annett Michuki..

      51 w

      the idea is promising

      • Tabitha Kimani

        51 w

        The researchers have raised more hope in solving the plastic menace.

        • Daniel Waweru

          51 w

          There's hope at last, finding ways of recycling plastics, that have been a biggest threat, is a great achievement. Turning something from being harzadous to useful is really encouraging

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