Researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Toronto have proposed a method enabling air conditioning and ventilation systems to produce synthetic fuels from carbon dioxide (CO2) and water from the ambient air. Compact plants are to separate CO2 from the ambient air directly in buildings and produce synthetic hydrocarbons which can then be used as renewable synthetic oil. The team now presents this “crowd oil” concept in Nature Communications.

To prevent the disastrous effects of global climate change, human-made greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to “zero” over the next three decades. This is clear from the current special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The necessary transformation poses a huge challenge to the global community: entire sectors such as power generation, mobility, or building management must be redesigned. In a future climate-friendly energy system, synthetic energy sources could represent an essential building block: “If we use renewable wind and solar power as well as carbon dioxide directly from the ambient air to produce fuels, large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions can be avoided,” says Professor Roland Dittmeyer from the Institute for Micro Process Engineering (IMVT) at KIT.

Due to the low CO2 concentration in the ambient air — today, the proportion is 0.038 percent — large quantities of air have to be treated in large filter systems in order to produce significant quantities of synthetic energy sources. A research team led by Dittmeyer and Professor Geoffrey Ozin from the University of Toronto (UoT) in Canada now proposes to decentralize the production of synthetic energy sources in the future and to link them to existing ventilation and air conditioning systems in buildings. According to Professor Dittmeyer, the necessary technologies are essentially available, and the thermal and material integration of the individual process stages is expected to enable a high level of carbon utilization and a high energy efficiency.

Read more at Karlsruher Institut für Technologie