In a first, two Indian researchers at Cambridge University have created a system that may simultaneously address two of the planet's largest environmental problems: greenhouse gases and plastic garbage.
Researchers created a reactor that transformed greenhouse gases and plastic trash into sustainable fuels and other useful goods under the direction of professor Erwin Reisner at the Reisner Lab, which creates ideas and technology for a sustainable future.
The study's findings have been published in Nature Synthesis.
The perovskite-based light absorber used in the reactor, which operates entirely on solar energy, is thought to be a more affordable option for solar cells than silicon.
"The reactor is divided into two halves. While one compartment transforms carbon dioxide, the other uses waste plastic to create valuable items "The co-first author, Dr. Motiar Rahaman, told NDTV over the phone.
Dr. Rahaman claimed that by converting carbon dioxide and waste plastic, the reactor might contribute in the production of syngas, formic acid, and glycolic acid.
There are several industrial applications for these goods. Liquid fuels are produced using syngas. In the production of leather and textiles, formic acid is employed. In the pharmaceutical industry, particularly in the cosmetics industry, glycolic acid is quite useful.
According to a release from Cambridge University, the reactor generated these chemicals at a rate that was far greater than that of traditional photocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction techniques.
According to Dr. Rahaman, the photoelectrodes, a crucial part of the reactor that includes catalyst material for converting waste, are the key to the whole conversion process.
Chemical processes may be sped up significantly by catalysts. More significantly, they have the ability to create wholly new materials with fresh applications.
The experiment's successful outcomes have encouraged the researchers, who now want to expand their invention.
"Right now, we're creating quite straightforward molecules made of carbon. In the future, by just switching the catalyst, we may be able to fine-tune the system to produce far more complicated compounds "Subhajit Bhattacharjee, a second co-first author, said.
Dr. Rahaman said that in order to scale up, they would keep to the fundamental principles of science and just need larger electrodes and photosensitizers. When sunlight is absorbed, photosensitizers create voltage that may be used to change waste materials like plastic and greenhouse gases.
However, he noted that it is currently difficult to manufacture perovskite solar cells on a wide scale.
remedy for the climate crisis?
The researchers are optimistic that their invention can aid nations in combating climate change, particularly underdeveloped ones.
A solar-powered system that might reduce greenhouse emissions and plastic pollution at the same time, according to Mr. Bhattacharjee, "may be a game-changer in the development of a circular economy."
As a result of greenhouse gases trapping the sun's heat, the earth warms and the climate changes. According to the United Nations, plastic pollution may affect habitats and natural processes, making it harder for ecosystems to adapt to climate change. Plastics are a major contributor to the climate catastrophe.
A Stanford University research found that since 1960, the economic disparity between industrialised and developing countries has widened by 25%.
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, climate-related catastrophes are already causing poor nations to experience relative economic losses that are three times larger than those experienced by high-income countries.
In actuality, the poor world bears the brunt of the expense of climate mitigation, which is expected to cost $2.4 trillion year by 2030, according to a paper presented at COP27.
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Before it's too late, Dr. Rahaman urged us to act to ameliorate the climate problem.