If you’ve been paying attention to the world of chemistry, physics or materials science in the past couple of decades or so, you’ll know that carbon nanomaterials have been really hitting the headlines. Graphene, fullerenes, nanotubes and nanofibres have been advertised as possible new materials for a variety of applications, and research groups have sprouted up around the globe to investigate these.
Now, Professor Stuart Licht of Washington University has found a way to produce such materials by capturing and transforming the CO2 found in the air around us. Licht uses a one-pot synthesis to produce the fibres, which utilises molten electrolysis with inexpensive Nickel and Iron electrodes.
Although it has only been developed to a 10 gram per hour scale so far, the process has potential to efficiently produce high quantities of this useful material. Professor Licht even suggests that this may be a viable way to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, but whether this proves viable on a large enough scale to be significant is uncertain.
Nevertheless, the proven ability to cheaply and efficiently turn the carbon from the air around us into a useful material is not only impressive, but exciting for the future.