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Solar Cell Converts CO2 into Useful Acid

PRINCETON, N.J., July 3, 2014 — Researchers at Princeton University have found a way to convert carbon dioxide into a potential fuel with record efficiency.

The study, lead by chemistry professor Dr. Andrew Bocarsly, involved converting CO2 and water into formic acid using an integrated silicon PV electrolyzer system inside an electrochemical cell. By stacking three electrochemical cells together, the thermionic energy conversion efficiency using AM 1.5 sunlight was 1.8%, the highest achieved in any solar CO2 reduction scheme to date, according to the researchers.

The process could be used to generate formate salt, which is used to melt ice on airport runways and is less corrosive to planes and safer for the environment than chloride salts.

Bocarsly collaborated with researchers at Liquid Light Inc. of Monmouth Junction, N.J.; the energy company Public Service Enterprise Group provided a solar panel.

The research was published in the Journal of CO2 Utilization (doi: 10.1016/j.jcou.2014.05.002). 

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