Use in Fuels
Another area of research is using carbon dioxide in fuels. Researchers in the United Kingdom have investigated methods for converting carbon dioxide to formic acid, chemical formula HCOOH. Once the reaction is complete, the formic acid may be used directly as a fuel to power fuel cells. Formic acid could also be further modified into other fuels.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego hve invented a method along similar lines to the formic acid approach. In this novel approach, the chemists used a solar cell to convert CO2) to carbon monoxide (CO) and oxygen as well as generating electricity.
Though carbon monoxide is a poison to humans, it is extremely useful in industry. It finds use in both medicine and the chemical industry, and was approved for use in maintaining meat coloring by the FDA in 2004.
In the chemical industry, carbon monoxide is used in most production of acetic acid. It is also used in purifying nickel (in the Mond process). In medicine, recent research is pointing towards carbon monoxide's potential use as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent.
Most intriguingly, however, carbon monoxide may be hydrogenated to form liquid fuels. Thus, this solar cell may be used to produce carbon monoxide, which may be further refined into a fuel which could be used in place of petroleum products or coal. Since the carbon monoxide would be obtained from carbon dioxide in the air, burning the fuel would be essentially carbon neutral.
These potential uses are just a few of the hundreds currently being researched. With any luck, these new uses will enter the marketplace within the next decade. In combination with current uses and some sequestration, it may be possible to largely mediate humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide in the foreseeable future.