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“Astonishing Breakthrough: Engineers Turn Carbon dioxide(CO2) into Clean, Green Fuel!”


A groundbreaking method has been devised by scientists at MIT and Harvard University, enabling the conversion of carbon dioxide into formate. This versatile substance can exist in liquid or solid states and serves as an effective fuel, similar to hydrogen or methanol, for fuel cells that produce electricity. Potassium and sodium formate, substances readily manufactured at an industrial scale and frequently utilized as de-icers for roads and walkways, offer significant advantages: they are safe, non-flammable, easy to transport, and can remain stable in standard steel tanks for extended periods, even years after production.

Carbondioxide into Formate as fuel.

About the Conversion of Carbondioxide into Formate

MIT and Harvard researchers, including doctoral students Zhen Zhang, Zhichu Ren, Alexander H. Quinn, and MIT Professor Ju Li, have developed an innovative process featured in an open-access article in Cell Reports Physical Science. This method encompasses the capture and electrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide into solid formate powder, which can be employed in a fuel cell to generate electricity. Though the initial demonstration occurred at a laboratory scale, the researchers believe it has the potential for scalability, potentially supplying emissions-free power and heat to homes and serving in industrial or grid-scale applications.

The innovative process achieves an impressive conversion rate of over 90% by sidestepping the energy-inefficient heating phase. It starts by converting carbon dioxide into a liquid metal bicarbonate. Subsequently, this liquid undergoes electrochemical conversion into liquid potassium or sodium formate using low-carbon electricity sources, such as nuclear, wind, or solar power. The resulting highly concentrated liquid formate solution can be dehydrated, for instance, through solar evaporation, yielding a remarkably stable solid powder. This powder can be stored in regular steel containers for many years or even decades, according to Professor Li.

The carbon capture and conversion process begins with an alkaline solution-based capture. It concentrates carbon dioxide from various sources, including power plant emissions and even low-concentration environments like open air. This concentrated CO2 is transformed into a liquid metal-bicarbonate solution. Subsequently, a cation-exchange membrane electrolyzer is employed to electrochemically convert this bicarbonate into solid formate crystals, boasting an impressive carbon efficiency exceeding 96%, as validated by the team’s laboratory experiments.

These crystals exhibit remarkable stability, offering an indefinite shelf life, and can be stored for extended periods, possibly even decades, with minimal to no degradation. In contrast, even the most advanced hydrogen storage tanks currently available experience gas leakage at a rate of approximately 1% per day, rendering them unsuitable for applications requiring year-long storage. While methanol is a commonly explored alternative for converting CO2 into fuel for use in fuel cells, it presents toxicity concerns. It is not easily adaptable in situations where leaks might pose health risks. In contrast, formate is widely used and regarded as safe, meeting national safety standards.

Furthermore, the research team developed a fuel cell that’s been fine-tuned for using formate fuel to generate electricity. The stored formate particles can be easily dissolved in water and injected into the fuel cell. Despite formate being denser than pure hydrogen, a comparison considering the weight and volume of high-pressure hydrogen gas storage tanks shows that the resulting electricity output is almost on par for a given storage volume.


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