In a revolutionary piece of research whose results came out in the?Journal of Materials Chemistry A, a team of students led by UCF Assistant Professor Fernando Uribe-Romo came up with a method of triggering a chemical reaction in metal-organic frameworks (MOF) that converts greenhouse gases into non-toxic organic materials - and also creates fuel.
A photoreactor with blue LED light-harvesting antennae was slowly fed carbon dioxide. Uribe-Romo?s hypothesis worked, and the chemical reaction turned the carbon dioxide into two kinds of carbon, formate and formamide, that act as solar fuel. The process also turned out to clean the air.
If confirmed on a larger scale, and possibly with other wavelengths of visible lights, this method would potentially help reduce greenhouse gas levels by converting carbon dioxide into harmless components at sites where CO2 are high, for instance in the close proximity of power plants. Not only would this revolutionary process absorb and recycle greenhouse gases, but it would also spew out clean energy for reuse at the power plant or elsewhere.
These large-scale processes clearly need more testing and refining for them to be cost- and energy-efficient; however, it appears that they may indeed clear the path for an artificial type of photosynthesis converting light into clean energy. It may be possible to envision a future where photoreactors are placed on rooftops to help protect our cities from pollution and power individual houses.