Game-Changing Innovation: Converting CO2 and Plastics into Sustainable Materials Simultaneously

By: | July 9th, 2023

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and plastic waste represent two significant environmental challenges confronting our world today. However, a group of scientists from Cambridge has developed a device that offers a potential solution to address both issues simultaneously.

The researchers have published a new study in the journal Nature Synthesis. Their “photoelectrochemical” system is unique. It can convert CO2 and plastics into sustainable materials. What sets it apart is its ability to work with multiple materials simultaneously. 

Unlocking the Value of Carbon Dioxide: Carbon Capture and Utilization for a Sustainable Future

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is popular in the fossil fuel industry. However, an alternative idea is to capture and utilize carbon dioxide instead of burying it underground. This approach, known as carbon capture and utilization (CCU), transforms carbon dioxide into useful products. It redefines carbon dioxide as a valuable resource for a sustainable economy.

The solar reactor successfully converted carbon dioxide into syngas, also known as synthetic gas. Syngas possesses combustible properties, making it suitable for direct use as fuel.

During the test, the plastic bottles were transformed into glycolic acid. This compound finds diverse applications in the healthcare industry. According to WebMD, glycolic acid is used by individuals for various purposes such as treating acne, addressing premature skin aging, minimizing dark skin patches, and reducing acne scars.

“We’re not just interested in decarbonization, but de-fossilization – we need to completely eliminate fossil fuels in order to create a truly circular economy,” said Professor Erwin Reisner, lead author of the study. “In the medium term, this technology could help reduce carbon emissions by capturing them from industry and turning them into something useful, but ultimately, we need to cut fossil fuels out of the equation entirely and capture CO2 from the air.”


Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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