London: Rice University researchers have created a Green Carbon Center to bring the benefits offered by oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other energy sources and will also provide a means to recycle carbon dioxide into useful products.
"The key is to turn carbon dioxide into a useful material so it`s no longer waste. We want the center to partner with energy companies -- including oil, natural gas and coal -- to make carbon a profitable resource,” said James Tour, Rice`s TT and WF Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science.
"The whole idea," Tour added, "is to lower the carbon dioxide footprint and to show you don`t have to get rid of anybody`s energy source.”
The researchers said that the rapid expansion of solar and wind energy and the promise of a hydrogen-based energy economy do not negate the continuing, long-term need for carbon-based energy.
They suggested carbon dioxide separated from hydrogen through steam methane reformation could either be repurposed immediately as a basic feedstock for chemicals or sequestered temporarily in tapped-out oil wells, which would hold vast amounts. Compressed and liquefied carbon could even replace another precious resource -- water -- to enhance oil and gas recovery.
If an efficient catalytic process can be developed, water-based conversion of carbon dioxide back to methanol, formaldehyde or other small molecules "would be a tremendous scientific advance for humanity," the authors wrote.
They also noted a potential market for carbon dioxide in dry cleaning, where it could replace harmful chlorocarbons, and as a refrigerant to replace materials more than 1,000 times as potent as greenhouse gases.
The study is published in Nature Materials.