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Harnessing the potential of renewable energy is a promising path for our future, and new research from the University of Cambridge is lighting the way. This team of innovative scientists has discovered an ingenious method of converting both carbon dioxide (CO2) and plastic waste into clean, renewable energy using only sunlight.

Source: @TheWorldOfScienceCo/YouTube

The core of this invention lies within a solar-powered reactor. This novel device not only captures CO2 but also processes plastic waste, transforming them into sustainable fuels and other valuable chemicals. The ingenuity doesn’t stop there; the reactor can extract CO2 directly from the industrial exhaust or even ambient air.

The breakthrough has significant implications, primarily as it offers an alternative to harmful fossil fuel usage. However, the technology is still in the development stage, and enhancements are required before it’s ready for industrial implementation.

By focusing on a new form of ‘artificial photosynthesis’, the team, led by Professor Erwin Reisner, is taking cues from nature’s own process of converting sunlight into food. Their system captures CO2 selectively from the air, leaving other gases untouched. This captured CO2 and plastic waste are then converted into syngas and useful chemicals, all with the help of sunlight.

Dr. Motiar Rahaman, one of the team members, explained, “If we add plastic waste to the system, the plastic donates electrons to the CO2, breaking down to glycolic acid. Meanwhile, the CO2 is converted into syngas, a simple fuel.”

This game-changing invention does more than just recycle waste or reduce emissions. By creating renewable energy from CO2 and plastic waste, it actively reverses carbon emissions. The overall goal is to develop a technology that contributes to a truly circular, sustainable economy.

This technology may still be in its nascent stages, but it is an encouraging step toward addressing two of the most pressing environmental issues: carbon emissions and plastic waste. The team at Cambridge University is not just making valuable strides in converting CO2 into renewable energy, but they’re doing so by using the cleanest source of energy we have – the sun.

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