It’s not quite turning water into wine, but it’s just about as useful. Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee seemed to have accidentally discovered a method of turning waste gases, carbon dioxide, directly into ethanol using only one single catalyst. Accidentally in that this wasn’t what they were expecting when they were conducting this particular experiment.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon nanospikes provide the magic to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol

In order to conduct their near magic, these researchers created copper and carbon nanospikes that were placed on a silicon surface, and from there they placed a nano droplet of nitrogen on each of those minuscule tips. That whole complex mechanism served as the basis for the reaction. Carbon dioxide, and a small electrical charge applied to the whole thing, caused a reaction that converted the CO2 into liquid ethanol. Ethanol is a very useful substance in that it can be used very easily as a biofuel. The best part is that the whole reaction works at room temperature, meaning no special equipment is needed. There’s also very little in the way of other substances created because it’s a small and direct reaction.

So we can essentially, now with this wonderful new process, take the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and from any other combustion reactions we create, and turn it into something useful. CO2 isn’t terribly useful on its own. The implications of this newly discovered process are tremendous. We can potentially use this to clean up the atmosphere while giving us renewable energy. It’s possible that this technology could be used in cities to both provide power, and clean the air simultaneously.