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£1.4 million to make car fuel from thin air

Press release issued: 23 March 2010

Funding to develop porous materials that absorb CO2 and convert it into new products such as car fuel and plastics has been awarded to three universities in the South West.

Funding to develop porous materials that absorb CO 2 and convert it into new products such as car fuel and plastics has been awarded to three universities in the South West.

The research, led by the University of Bath, will also involve scientists and engineers from the Universities of Bristol and the West of England

The researchers hope the porous materials will be used to line factory chimneys to take carbon dioxide pollutants from the air, reducing the effects of climate change. The process will be powered by renewable solar energy.

Dr. David Fermin, from the University of Bristol, said: "Currently, there are no large-scale technologies available for capturing and processing CO2 from air. The fact is that CO2 is rather diluted in the atmosphere and its chemical reactivity is very low. By combining clever material design with heterogeneous catalysis, electrocatalysis and biocatalysis, we aim to develop an effective carbon neutral technology."

The Bath-Bristol collaboration brings together scientists from a range of disciplines, with researchers from Bath’s Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE), the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol, and the School of Life Sciences at the University of the West of England.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, Bristol Robotics Laboratory, added: “One of the great advantages of this project is that it will attempt to exploit the natural abilities of photo-heterotrophic microorganisms in utilising light to fix CO2, which in turn will allow the production of biomass to be used as fuel and electricity or hydrogen, as required.”

Dr Frank Marken, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at Bath, said: “Current processes rely on using separate technology to capture and utilise the CO2, which makes the process very inefficient.

“By combining the processes the efficiency can be improved and the energy required to drive the CO2 reduction is minimised. It will be a massive challenge but we have a strong inter-disciplinary team that includes chemists, chemical engineers, biologists, and life-cycle analysts.”

Dr Petra Cameron, RCUK Fellow from the Department of Chemistry at Bath, said: "We hope that the use of renewable energy to recycle CO2 will be an effective way to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

The project, funded by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to the tune of £1.4 million, is in its early stages, but the researchers predict the new technology could make a real difference in the fight against climate change.

Further information

Please contact Cherry Lewis for further information.
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