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From pollutant to profit -- nanoscience turns carbon on its head
Date:3/23/2010

Three new complementary research projects will turn carbon from a pollutant into useful products that could help both industry and the environment.

Nanotechnology solutions will be used to:

  • convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into chemicals that could be used in fuel cells for laptops and mobile phones at University College London
  • produce vehicle fuels from CO2 using an 'artificial leaf' concept at Imperial College London
  • remove CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it into useful products such as polymers, carbohydrates or fuels at the Universities of Bath, Bristol and West of England.

The research is part of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 'Nanotechnology Grand Challenge' programme and will receive a total investment of 4m.

Catalytic reactor

University College London scientists led by Professor Nora De Leeuw will work with Johnson Matthey to mimic biological systems and produce a catalytic reactor that can convert CO2 into useful chemicals for applications such as fuel cells in laptops and mobile phones.

The reactor will use novel nano-catalysts based on compounds formed in warm springs on the ocean floor that are considered to have triggered the emergence of life. The team's design will take inspiration from biological systems that can carry out complex processes to convert CO2 into biological material, and exploit a wide range of computational and experimental chemistry techniques.

Professor De Leeuw says: "If we were able to emulate nature and convert CO2 into useful products without having to use large amounts of energy, the benefits would be enormous. One of the major gases responsible for climate change would become an important raw material for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries."

Artificial leaf

At Imperial College London and University
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Contact: EPSRC Press Office
pressoffice@epsrc.ac.uk
44-179-344-4404
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Source:Eurekalert

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