New laser technique will bring more efficient clean fuels, here's how

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New Delhi : In an attempt to develop efficient energy process, scientists have come up with a new laser technique that may help companies to find sustainable ways to replace fossil fuels with more efficient clean energy.

Experts say that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a hugely abundant waste product that can be converted into energy-rich by-products, such as carbon monoxide. The explanation has been made by researchers at the University of Liverpool in the UK.

Conversely, this process needs to be made far more efficient for it to work on a global, industrial scale. The study has been published in the journal Nature Catalysis.

Electrocatalysts have shown promise as a potential way to achieve this required efficiency ‘step-change’ in CO2 reduction, but the mechanisms by which they operate are often unknown making it hard for researchers to design new ones in a rational manner.

Experts at the University of Liverpool, in collaboration with Beijing Computational Science Research Center in China, demonstrated a laser-based spectroscopy technique that can be used to study the electrochemical reduction of CO2 in-situ or original place and provide much-needed insights into these complex chemical pathways.

During the work, the researchers used a technique called Vibrational Sum-Frequency Generation (VSFG) spectroscopy coupled with electrochemical experiments to explore the chemistry of a particular catalyst called Mn (bpy) (CO) 3Br, which is one of the most promising and intensely studied CO2 reduction electrocatalysts.

Using Vibrational Sum-Frequency Generation (VSFG) the researchers were able to observe key intermediates that are only present at an electrode surface for a very short time, something that has not been achieved in previous experimental studies.

“A huge challenge in studying electrocatalysts in situ is having to discriminate between the single layer of short-lived intermediate molecules at the electrode surface and the surrounding ‘noise’ from inactive molecules in the solution,” said Gaia Neri, who was part of the Liverpool team.

Following the result of the research, the team is now working to improve the sensitive issues associated with the technique and is now developing a new detection system that will allow for a better signal-to-noise ratio.