Canadian Consulting Engineer

Stanford researchers find way to make ethanol without corn

Scientists from Stanford University have found a promising technology that could help in the search for more environmentally benign fuels.

April 29, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Scientists from Stanford University have found a promising technology that could help in the search for more environmentally benign fuels.

Matthew Kanan, an assistant professor of chemistry and graduate student Christina Li are co-authors of the study, which appeared April 9 in the online edition of the journal Nature.

Their technique involves a novel electrochemical cell, consisting of two electrodes placed in water saturated with carbon monoxide. They used a cathode made of oxide-derived copper and when a small voltage was applied the cathode produced ethanol and acetate with 57% faradaic efficiency.

The team is now looking at ways of using the process to create more dense fuels such as propanol and improving the overall efficiency of the process. However, they say there is a long way to go.

Kanan was quoted in a Stanford Report of April 9, saying: “Technology already exists for converting CO2 to carbon monoxide, but the missing piece was the efficient conversion of carbon monoxide to a useful fuel that’s liquid, easy to store and nontoxic. Prior to our study, there was a sense that no catalyst could efficiently reduce carbon monoxide to a liquid. We have a solution to this problem that’s made of copper, which is cheap and abundant. We hope our results inspire other people to work on our system or develop a new catalyst that converts carbon monoxide to fuel.”

To read the full Stanford Report, written by Mark Shwartz, click here.

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Energy

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Green, Alternative Energy

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