• 11.25.09

Sandia’s Sunshine-to-Petrol Machine Turns CO2 Into Fuel

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Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is a questionable technology at best, so it’s a good thing that scientists at Sandia National Laboratories have come up with a potential alternative–the Sunshine to Petrol machine, which supposedly turns CO2 into usable fuel.


The device, technically called the Counter-Rotating-Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (CR5), uses concentrated solar heat to provoke a “reverse combustion” reaction that turns waste CO2 in carbon monoxide. The same process can also produce hydrogen by replacing CO2 with water. When the hydrogen and carbon monoxide are mixed, they make syngas. Ultimately, the CR5 device could capture carbon from factories or power plants and turn it into fuel, thereby turning a dangerous waste product into something useful

Sandia’s technology is still in its infancy, but researchers have finally completed a working prototype. A new prototype will be developed every two to three years in an attempt to increase the solar-to-fuel efficiency and to lower cost. In 15 to 20 years, the technology will hopefully be ready to go to market. By that time, we’ll know if CCS is viable–GE Oil and Gas recently launched a $400 million carbon capture project in Australia that is expected to bury 3.3 million tons of CO2 each year.

[Via MIT Technology Review]

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.