CO2 soon the recycled fuel with a biocatalyst?
Carbon dioxide, long identified as the main culprit of global warming, could make a new virtue if a small American company succeeded his bet to turn it into gasoline.
At first glance, the company seems as crazy as that of the medieval alchemist Nicolas Flamel, except that it is more to turn lead into gold, but the pollutant into clean energy.
While the Obama administration has made the fight against climate change and the search for clean energy a priority, the company Carbon Sciences, who patented his discoveries, hopes surf mobilizing political and opinion for be the first to meet this challenge.
This small company in Santa Barbara, California, is willing to build a first pilot plant at the operational level, which could start producing a new generation of biofuels at the end 2010.
Its COO Byron Elton explained that it remained for him to find a partner to launch the project.
"Our partner can be anyone who produces a lot of CO2: a coal plant, a cement plant, a refinery ..." he said at a meeting in New York.
If a partnership was sealed within nine months, this new type of biofuel could begin to be produced by the end of 2010, Elton said, while acknowledging that the timetable "could be a bit ambitious." The technology developed by carbon Sciences uses microorganisms, which it calls "bio-catalysts". (Note econologie.com: would this micro algae?)
In a first step, it is necessary to "destabilize" the carbon dioxide by mixing it with water. Then the microorganisms, protected by specially developed polymer shells, take charge of recomposing hydrogen and carbon to produce hydrocarbons.
The mechanism is the same as that used in nature, during the genesis of hydrocarbons. But in the Carbon Sciences process, "biocatalysts are protected and reused, so gasoline can be produced at a very competitive price."
Other companies are in this field
Carbon Sciences, a company employing only 8 people, claims to be the most advanced in this research, but it is not alone in exploring this track.
Investor-researcher Craig Venter, whose team had been the first to announce that he had succeeded in decoding the human genome in 2000, announced in February 2008 that he thought he would succeed in 18 months to produce biofuel " fourth generation ", ie not on an agricultural basis like ethanol, but based on carbon dioxide.
Today the J. Craig Venter Institute boasts especially using advanced algae to decompose and recompose the CO2 hydrocarbons.
These initiatives are of great interest among US officials. They are especially popular in the United States that the country derives half of its electricity from coal plants, emitting huge carbon dioxide, the ecological cost is decried as such.
"The question is not whether we use coal but how we use it," said influential Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan earlier this month.
He said that 3,4 billion had been budgeted for this purpose in the economic stimulus package passed earlier this year. Carbon Sciences manna which would thoroughly enjoy, according to Byron Elton.