Scientists at world-leading lab EPFL, Switzerland have built the first earth-abundant and low-cost catalytic system for splitting CO2 into CO and oxygen using tin, simulating photosynthesis by plants. The invention uses tin oxide coated onto copper wires and solar power to produce the CO gas, that can then be converted to fuels.
The work, published in June 2017 in Nature Energy, was carried out in the lab of Michael Gretzl, who is internationally recognised in the field of solar cell materials. In this work his team have used sunlight and a solar cell to power the catalytic reaction, splitting carbon dioxide with an efficiency of 13.4% and 90% Faradaic charge transfer efficiency.
According to the team “This is the first time that such a bi-functional and low-cost catalyst is demonstrated. Very few catalysts — except expensive ones, like gold and silver — can selectively transform CO2 to CO in water, which is crucial for industrial applications.”
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