Scientists discovers how to convert atmospheric CO2 to make carbon nanofibers

A group of scientists in the United States have discovered a novel means of taking carbon dioxide or CO2 from the air and making carbon nanofibers, an extremely important manufacturing material.

To run, the solar powered system created by the scientists requires only a few volts of electricity produced using hot and molten salt. The system absorbs CO2 from the air, and the nanofibers slowly start assembling at an electrode. Right now, it is capable of producing 10 grams of the material per hour.

According to the team, this system might make a strong impact on carbon dioxide emissions. However, other researchers are not yet confident that anything like that can happen. Whatever may be the case, this process of making carbon nanofibers is much less expensive than all other existing methods.

Credit: Stuart Licht, Ph.D.

Professor Stuart Licht, a representative of the George Washington University, said that to date carbon nanofibers was not thought to be suitable for a range of applications due to their high price. Prof. Licth was delivering a speech at an American Chemical Society meeting in Boston.

Carbon nanofibers are currently used in several high-end applications like batteries and electronic components. It is believed that if costs of manufacturing the material can be brought down, it can be used far more extensively. A day might come when the material will be replacing the strong and lightweight carbon compounds used for manufacturing car and aircraft parts.

Now, the question that is doing the rounds is whether this newly discovered reaction shown by the team led by Prof. Licht will actually be able to reduce that cost.

The entire concept of capturing carbon dioxide from the air and then turning it into different useful products is pretty popular. However, this field has faced more failures than successes. The good news is that both Prof. Licht and his team are confident that the new design created by them has high potential of succeeding.

According to them, the system scales up quite easily and the entire process requires very little energy for being completed. Prof. Licht has also suggested that if the process is used frequently it might help in bringing down the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which makes the system environment-friendly.