C&EN discusses How can we convert CO₂ from threat to asset? Chemists want to use electrochemistry to turn the greenhouse gas into chemical feedstocks and fuels, but they need to improve their systems’ efficiencies first.
It’s no secret that humans have emitted too much carbon dioxide. Now catastrophic climatic changes caused by this gaseous glut are unrolling before our eyes. While some scientists and engineers are working on ways to tamp down CO2 emissions, others want to figure out what to do with the gas we’ve already released into the atmosphere.
Some want to snag and sequester CO2, usually by pumping it deep into the earth. Others propose growing plants to grab the gas and then using the resulting biomass to make useful things, such as chemicals and plastics. One option that scientists have recently fallen hard for is called carbon capture and utilization. After taking CO2 from the air, chemists would reduce the gas and turn it into fuels and raw ingredients for chemical manufacturing. So far in 2020, scientists have published over 1,700 papers on the subject. In 2010, there were just under 500 publications.