The air we breathe and the water we drink is under stress. Rapid industrialisation and deforestation have affected both these natural resources. Vehicular and industrial emissions are adding to the pollution levels, notably carbon dioxide CO2, which is affecting health. Climate change has a ripple effect and as nations grapple internationally with carbon emissions each is responsible for and global warming, there is good news: a scientific breakthrough in the management of both air and water is set to change the situation for the better.
It is indeed a proud achievement for India as researchers of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have recently announced a scientific breakthrough relating to both these resources – water and air. This has been published in the Chemical Science journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Although still at the laboratory level, they have scientifically established that atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) can be captured and converted to fuel and seawater can be converted to portable water using their breakthrough discovery!
The nine-member TIFR team was able to develop nano particles of black gold by changing the size of gold nano particles and the distance between them. The resultant black gold, acting as a catalyst and using solar energy, has the capability of being able to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) and convert it into methane fuel. In many ways, it acts like a tree that uses sunlight, CO2 and water to produce a fuel. It can also purify seawater into potable water.
The significance of this scientific discovery is that TIFR researchers have not only created a tree in the laboratory but have also provided for fuel generation. Normal trees absorb CO2, sunlight and water to produce food. What black gold will do is use the same CO2, sunlight and water to produce methane which is a core component in compressed natural gas (CNG) mostly used to power vehicles.
When solar energy is applied to this black gold, there is a significant level of heat that is generated. This, the same team of TIFR researchers, have indicated can be used to convert seawater into potable water.
This breakthrough has significant commercial consequences. World Governments plagued by industrial and vehicular emissions in the atmosphere may soon promulgate taxes on carbon-dioxide emissions to try and control global warming.
In May 2019, for the first time in world history, CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere crossed 415ppm (parts per million). Scientists have already warned that 77% of the cities around the globe will face climate change in the years to come with 22% of cities encountering weather conditions that don’t even exist today. Black gold could be a solution to carbon emissions.
Research on the injection of gold particle plasmon-induced hot electrons to carry out catalysis is already being conducted in many laboratories across the world. The TIFR team presents a more efficient way of pursuing this goal.
Such scientific discoveries bring cheer and relief and will go a long way in bettering the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.