Last May, I was visiting the northern branch of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) located at Berkeley National Laboratory. That visit later became a report on how JCAP had strategically moved from water splitting to carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction in its efforts to achieve artificial photosynthesis.
Just before I left the JCAP facilities at Berkeley Labs, I was ferried over to meet with Haimei Zheng, a staff scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division. Zheng claimed that she and her colleagues had completed—but had not yet published—research in which they had managed to crack the big problem of byproduct selectivity in CO2 reduction. The main issue with carbon dioxide reduction is that it usually produces a soup of different products when what you really want is a specific fuel, like ethanol.
Now the research she told me about has been published and is described in the journal Science Advances. The team’s work promises 100-percent selectivity in carbon monoxide production.