What if our carbon emissions could actually minimize our carbon footprint? Chemical engineers from MIT have made an exciting discovery that could change the way we approach emissions: they’ve figured out how to transform them into liquid fuel.
Several innovations underway could help decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, including biofuel made from agriculture leftovers like corn husks. But concerns over cost, especially for developing countries, drove the MIT team to look for a cheaper alternative.
Several biogas plants in Europe already burn gas to generate electricity, but the MIT researchers say the process is prohibitively expensive and wasteful. Converting those emissions to a liquid fuel, which is easily transported, is reportedly more cost-effective.
They found that waste gas emissions from steel mills, power plants, and even garbage dumps could be converted to acetic acid, also known by its household name vinegar, using bacteria. That vinegar can then be turned into liquid fuel using a special type of yeast. They published their research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.
More than just an academic paper based on lab experiments, the research has already been tested in the field. A pilot plant outside of Shanghai has been successfully utilizing the process of turning waste gases into fuel for about six months now, and a new “semi-commercial” plant is currently in the works. The new plant would be 20 times the size of the Shanghai station.