An Artificial Photosynthesis Device to Produce Ethylene Gas

The device could reduce the carbon footprint of ethylene production.


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Scientists at the National University of Singapore have developed a prototype of artificial photosynthesis device to produce ethylene gas. As natural photosynthesis process uses sunlight, water, and carbon-dioxide, the device also mimics the same and ethylene at room temperature.

Ethylene, an important chemical feedstock that has various applications. According to a report, on average 170 million tonnes of ethylene was produced worldwide in 2015 alone. This production is expected to be 220 million tonnes by 2020.

The process used to produce ethylene involves steam cracking of fossil fuels at between 750°C to 950°C. It expends a lot of vitality and represents a strain on normal fuel assets. Thus emanate a large amount of carbon footprint by emitting carbon dioxide. As such, there is a growing demand for a cleaner and more sustainable way of producing ethylene.

In order to produce ethylene in more eco-friendly manner, scientists designed a copper catalyst in 2015 that could generate ethylene from readily available water and carbon dioxide when powered by electricity. They introduced the copper catalyst to this artificial photosynthesis device that aids in converting carbon dioxide and water into ethylene using only solar energy.

The model gadget intended to do the response accomplished a 30 for every penny faradaic effectiveness of ethylene in view of the measure of electrons produced from sun based vitality. The general vitality effectiveness of sunlight based to-ethylene is additionally tantamount to the level of vitality productivity of regular photosynthesis by plants.

Assistant Professor Jason Yeo Boon Siang said, “Carbon capture is a key step in fighting human-driven climate change. There has been a steady increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide because the rate of carbon dioxide emissions exceeds that of carbon capture.”

“This is attributed as a major cause of global warming which leads to undesirable environmental changes. Our device not only employs a completely renewable energy source but also converts carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas into something useful. This could potentially close the carbon cycle.”

Scientists also incorporated the battery inside it. The battery stores excess solar energy collected in the day to power the device at night or under low light.

Scientists further planning to scale up the production of ethylene as well as employ similar systems to produce liquid fuels such as ethanol and propanol.


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