By Matt Warren
Every year, the billions of metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) we release into the atmosphere add to the growing threat of climate change. But what if we could simply recycle all that wasted CO2and turn it into something useful?
By adding electricity, water, and a variety of catalysts, scientists can reduce CO2 into short molecules such as carbon monoxide and methane, which they can then combine to form more complex hydrocarbon fuels like butane. Now, researchers think we could be on the cusp of a CO2-recycling revolution, which would capture CO2 from power plants—and maybe even directly from the atmosphere—and convert it into these fuels at scale, they report today in Joule.
Science talked with one of the study’s authors, materials scientists and graduate student Phil De Luna at the University of Toronto in Canada, about how CO2 recycling works—and what the future holds for these technologies. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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