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Breaking down carbon dioxide

  1. Jun 7, 2017 #1
    I have recently seen a paper ( https://www.nature.com/articles/nenergy201787 ) that describes a method to break down carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen. I would love to know how they were able to come up with a method such as this but unfortunately I didn't take chemistry in highschool, which means I'm not doing it at uni either but I do have a physics/engineering background.

    I was wondering which areas in chemistry I should study - any topics that would specifically cover this sort of thing. I would like to know how they design reactions such as this from scratch as I find it really interesting.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2017 #2
    Looking at the abstract, it would seem like areas such as electrochemistry, catalysis and atomic layer deposition would be particularly relevant. But if you haven't got even high-school chemistry, these are likely to be meaningless to you. You need to get a grounding in the basic principles of chemistry which will come up in every area, such as valency, chemical bonding, redox reactions, the basic chemistry of the common elements (especially, in this context, carbon, copper and tin, but of course other transition metals might be relevant). The authors come up with ideas like this by having a sound knowlege of chemical principles, and a thorough knowledge of the specific area they are researching (e.g. the catalytic reduction of CO2), plus a flash of inspiration. This takes years to acquire (except the last!).
     
  4. Jun 7, 2017 #3
    Yeah I realise I cannot learn this level of advanced chemistry overnight but I was just looking for a general path to wonder down until I eventually start understanding their explanations. Thanks, I'll definitely make sure I try and work my way towards the topics you mentioned!
     
  5. Jun 7, 2017 #4

    Charles Link

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    For something simpler, along similar lines, photosynthesis involves the following reaction: ## CO_2+H_2 O ==>> CH_2 O+O_2 ##. ## \\ ## (## CH_2 O ## is the carbohydrate building block). ## \\ ## Meanwhile, if we try mixing ## CO_2 ## and water without all the complicated processes in photosynthesis, we simply get sugarless soda pop =(carbonated water without any sugar/carbohydrate): ## CO_2+H_2 O ==>> HCO_3^{-}+H^{+} ##. (## CO_2 ## dissolved in water plus carbonic acid). ## \\ ## As far as I know, they haven't succeeded at performing the photosynthesis reaction in the laboratory.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  6. Jun 7, 2017 #5

    Ygggdrasil

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  7. Jun 7, 2017 #6

    Charles Link

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    @Ygggdrasil Thank you. From a quick review of these articles, it appears the process has been accomplished, but they presently are unable to do it on a large scale. Some of the successes in the research are very current. From the looks of things, the on-going research is quite active and also very promising.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2017
  8. Jun 7, 2017 #7

    Ygggdrasil

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    Yes, it's a very active area of research though anything commercializable at a larger scale is still probably far away.
     
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