Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago report a novel "co-catalyst" system using carbon-based nanofiber materials can efficiently convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide, a useful starting material for synthesizing fuels.
Researchers have long sought an efficient, commercially viable way to chemically "reduce," or lower the oxidation state, of carbon dioxide.
Some previous methods used silver as part of the catalyzing process, but silver is expensive.
The UIC researchers discovered that a common structural material, carbon nanofibers, could perform the same function, acting as a reduction catalysis.
"We were very surprised at first" that the co-catalyst system was more efficient than silver, UIC graduate student Mohammad Asadi said.
The finding "opened up a lot of options for designing inexpensive and efficient catalyst system for carbon dioxide conversion," study co-author Bijandra Kumar said.
A goal of the research is to develop commercially viable processes for the production of synthetic gas and even gasoline from carbon dioxide, the researcher said.