Wednesday, October 19, 2016

While you were distracted by the looming November election scientists in Tennessee discovered how to turn carbon dioxide into ethanol with great efficiency.

While everyone was busy being disgusted at their fellow citizen's behavior as a result of the looming November election, something wonderful in the science world happened. And by wonderful, I mean it was one of the rare "happy accidents" that resulted in something that I think could be "game-changing" and give a lot of hope to a human race struggling with the inevitability of climate change.

According to the journal ChemistrySelect, scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee discovered a chemical reaction that turns carbon dioxide into ethanol. The process can happen at room temperature (so doesn't require hardly any energy), and it can be started and stopped easily and with little cost. When combined with the electricity grid, it could take advantage of times when there is abundant electricity by using it to create ethanol for long-term energy storage (during times when there isn't enough electricity).

Then there's the whole fact that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, so this process could potentially take some of the CO2 out of the air and turn it into energy to power all kinds of things. No matter where you stand on climate change (or if you believe it's a conspiracy invented by democrats), I think everyone can agree that turning carbon dioxide into ethanol is a win win for the entire human race.

Don't you think that's exciting? I'm excited. Science! 


  1. I read that yesterday on another blog.

    1. It's huge news right now. All the science blogs are talking about it. It gets me excited, because it offers a ray of hope in the whole "we are beyond the point of no return" argument of climate change. I just saw on Facebook the other day that the Great Barrier reef was killed off by climate change (or is in the process of dying to it).

  2. Turning our breathing waste into gas. Brilliant.

  3. As I read about this a few days ago I wondered if this could be the big clean energy advancement many of us have been waiting for.

  4. We'll see if anything comes of it.

  5. If you believe in the conspiracies where this kind of innovation is suppressed in order to keep the current, expensive, and lucrative systems in store (although the boom in electric and/or hybrid cars in recent years shows cracks forming), now may not be the time to celebrate. But with so much chatter, hopefully it'll be hard to ignore, and the next president might even try to cooperate in making it an everyday feature of our lives. It's been too long since we had a real gamechanger like this. (Smartphones don't count.)

  6. Wow, I had not heard that. That's huge.

  7. Wonderful news! Thanks for sharing this Mike.

  8. From what I've read, this discovery is being overhyped by science sites that are using it as clickbait. It uses the same process as hydrolysis that pulls hydrogen out of water but this focuses on CO2 concentrated in water instead. We don't use hydrolysis to create hydrogen due to the expense and the percentage of H2O in ocean water is much greater than CO2 (which is around .05%)

    The process is highly inefficient as the hard part is concentrating the CO2 in the first place. In addition, the fact it is done at room temperature is misleading as it uses electricity not thermal energy for the conversion process. The process is net energy negative. Plus, the resulting energy in ethanol has to be stored if you are using it to take carbon out of the atmosphere which gives the process even more energy loss.

    I'm glad the science occurred and perhaps it will lead to other discoveries but this isn't the cure that many sites are hinting.