Can you use CO2 to make green fuel? It's a win-win for the climate: we can reduce CO2 while generating and storing clean energy. The technology we're developing to do that was inspired by the kind of photosynthesis and carbon capture that is done by plants.
Photo: A prototype of a carbon-capturing solar cell that can create fuels like formic acid and methanol from CO2.
Converting CO2 into green fuel
The project's goal is to use CO2 to generate green fuel. This could be in the form of green methanol or green formic acid. By converting CO2 into green fuel, we're creating a win-win for the climate: we can reduce CO2 while generating and storing green energy. That could be done in a variety of ways. One of them is to store excess energy from wind farms or solar cells that – using our technology – can be kept in a simple tank in convenient liquid form (methanol, formic acid), ready to be used when you need it. These liquids have significant advantages over hydrogen gas and other gases, especially when it comes to storage. There's a lower explosion risk, and methanol has higher energy content. There are already vehicles running on methanol (tractor-trailers, IndyCars), and a bus in Eindhoven using formic acid as fuel.
Photosynthesis and carbon capture as a source of inspiration
The technology we're developing as part of this project was inspired by the kind of photosynthesis and carbon capture done by plants. We use enzymes that, once charged with electrical energy, can very specifically convert CO2 into fuels like methanol or formic acid. It has worked successfully at a micro level, so now we're trying to scale it up to a small reactor.