Rice University has created a Green Carbon Center to bring the benefits offered by oil, gas, coal, wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other energy sources together in a way that will not only help ensure the world's energy future but also provide a means to recycle carbon dioxide into useful products.
Whether or not one believes in anthropogenic climate change, the fact is humans are throwing away a potentially valuable resource with every ton of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, said James Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry as well as a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of computer science. Far from being a villain in the global warming debate, carbon will be a boon if the world can learn to use it well, he said.
"The key is to turn carbon dioxide into a useful material so it's no longer waste," he said. "We want the center to partner with energy companies -- including oil, natural gas and coal -- to make carbon a profitable resource."
A number of strategies are detailed in a paper in today's online edition of Nature Materials by Tour, Vicki Colvin, Rice's Pitzer-Schlumberger Professor of Chemistry and of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and Carter Kittrell, a Rice research scientist.
Tour said the paper presents a taste of what Rice's new center intends to be: a think tank for ideas about the future of energy with a focus on green carbon and the technological know-how to back it up. As part of Rice's Richard E. Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology, the Green Carbon Center will draw upon the combined knowledge of the university's nanotechnology experts, for whom the development of clean and plentiful energy is a priority.
"Eighty-five percent of our country's energy comes from fossil fuels, and Houston is the world capital of the industry that makes and produces and transports those fossil fuels to all of us," Colvin said. "So we
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