Hidden gems in materials discovery: Healing our climate with barite

The most immediate feeling of the effect of global warming on people will likely be the unbearable long hot days of summer. The Joule-Thompson compression-expansion based air conditioner will be desperately needed in this situation. However, their use intensifies the warming effect especially in urban areas due to greenhouse gas coolants, energy consumption, CO2 emissions and urban heat island effect. Recently, the common mineral Barite, barium sulphate, demonstrated passive radiative cooling, providing an environmental temperature reduction of 4-10 °C, a promising materials technology for confronting the urban warming effect of climate change, an eco-friendly cooling alternative to air conditioners, now that’s really cool! See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations Alex Tavasoli on being selected as a Clean50 Award Winner

Alex Tavasoli, graduate student in the solar fuels group and CEO of Solistra , is selected as the Clean50 Individual award winner and one of the Clean50 Emerging Leaders, based on her pioneering accomplishment of making green hydrogen H2 from the two most potent greenhouse gases methane CH4 and carbon dioxide CO2 powered by solar energy at an estimated cost 25% that of H2 from electrically powered electrolysis of H2O.

Background: Canada’s Clean50 annually offers recognition to Canada’s leaders in sustainability for their contributions over the prior two years, which are selected from 16 diverse categories that transcend numerous industries, academia, different levels of government, thought leaders and advocates, and are based on accomplishments delivered over the prior two years.

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A natural way of turning off the carbon dioxide tap, California style

It is necessary for us to build a net carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative society to counter global warming and related energy security problems. Many possible solutions have been proposed in this regard, however when the goal could be reached via any strategy is not clear yet. Recently, a new report outlined in quantitative detail the range of options, trade-offs, and costs to guide future policies in achieving carbon neutrality by 2045 for California. Through this report we might get a clearer outlook of how a cost-effective, feasible pathway could be built via existing techniques such as CO2 capture and biomass utilization, and what are the remaining challenges in the future. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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DIY Eco-Friendly Fertilizer

It is well-documented that around 0.00470757486 kg active nitrogen should be treated into per square meter soils to nourish the farms and gardens. Meanwhile do you know that each bolt of lightning in a thunderstorm converts about 7 kg of nitrogen into active nitrates? For sure human beings cannot rely on lightning to ease hunger but we can expect a solar powered lightning-mimic technique—the plasma, where a flow of gaseous N2 and O2 are electrically excited causing them to react to produce mainly NO in an arc reactor. This is not scientific fiction but is being reduced to practice by a company named VitalFluid. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations to Pavani, Geoff, Wei, and co-authors on their publication in Science Advances!

Oil spill happens occasionally, and its cleanup is usually challenging especially at low temperatures. Paraffin waxes in crude oil would crystallise to form a surface layer and block the liquid oil droplet inside, which decreases the capability of advanced oil spill cleanup measures, such as absorption by sponges. In this paper, Pavani, Wei and coauthors effectively resolved this challenge by coating a polyester polyurethane sponge with nanoscale silicon capped with paraffin-like, octadecyl ligands, achieving up to 99% absorption of oil from water at low temperatures. See full story at Science Advances.

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Congratulations to Joel and co-authors on their publication in Nature Communications!

Photoelectrons could initiate excited-state chemistry to enable low-temperature reactions which are kinetically prohibited at ground state. Triggering more photoelectrons is considered as the key to implement solar advantage for facile catalysis, which is usually realized via concentrating photo-intensity. However, this method suffers from the photo-saturation effect when the light intensity reaches a threshold. In this paper, Joel and co-authors demonstrate a counter-intuitive waveguide strategy to surmount the photo saturation of indium oxide catalyst by distributing, instead of concentrating, the light intensity. See full story at Nature Communications.

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Congratulations to Truong and co-authors on their publication in Nano Letters!

In this paper, Truong and coauthors developed a ternary heterostructured TiN@TiO2@In2O3−x(OH)y photocatalyst to enable broadband light absorption, effective photothermal heating and engineered charge carrier transfer. This design enables highly efficient CO2 reduction to CO with the requirement of minimum amount of expensive component In2O3−x(OH)y. See full story at Nano Letters.

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Congratulations to Alex Tavasoli and coauthors on their publication in EES!

Transforming the greenhouse gas into fuels via sunlight has attracted great interests recently, but where are we and where should we go for a solar fuel refinery? To answer this question, Alex, who is the Co-founder and CEO of the solar fuel spinoff Solistra, analyzes the remaining technical challenges associated with the commercial application for dry reforming with coauthors. It is discovered that many photocatalysts reported in literatures have activity merits high enough for potential implementations while major challenge lies in chemical engineering such as the design of photoreactor. See full story at EES.

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CO2 photocatalysis sees the light of day

Recently, Dimensional Energy, a spin-off company from Cornell University, has designed, built, and tested, a pilot-scale photoreactor for making chemicals using just carbon dioxide and sunlight, no additional heating or electricity is needed. As shown in the photograph, the setup consists of a tracking system, which collects and concentrates sunlight to the wave-guide reactor where the CO2 is catalytically converted to carbon monoxide or methanol by a In2O3-xOHy catalyst. This pilot reactor is now tested at a CO2 emitting coal-fired power-plant located at Gillette, Wyoming, USA to compete for the prestigious Carbon XPrize, a step closer to the vision of the solar fuel refinery. See full story at Advanced Science News.

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Congratulations Dr. Mireille Ghoussoub and Professor Geoffrey Ozin, The Story of CO2 has been named in The Hill Times’ List of 100 Best Books in 2020!

It is with great delight to announce that the book, The Story of CO2: Big Ideas for a Small Molecule, by Dr. Mireille Ghoussoub and Professor Geoffrey Ozin has been named in The Hill Times’ List of 100 Best Books in 2020! Available for order here.

About the book: The climate crisis requires that we drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions across all sectors of society. The Story of CO2 contributes to this vital conversation by highlighting the cutting-edge science and emerging technologies – a number of which are already commercially available – that can transform carbon dioxide into a myriad of products such as feedstock chemicals, polymers, pharmaceuticals, and fuels. This approach allows us to reconsider CO2 as a resource, and to add “carbon capture and use” to our other tools in the fight against catastrophic climate change. See also an introduction and story by the Faculty of Science and Art, UofT, the Story of CO2 describes a groundbreaking solution to the climate crisis.

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