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Sun-Powered Chemistry Can Turn Carbon Dioxide into Common Materials
The manufacture of many chemicals important to human health and comfort consumes fossil fuels, thereby contributing to extractive processes, carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. In recent years investigators have developed photocatalysts that break the resistant double bond between carbon and oxygen in carbon dioxide. Photocatalysts are typically semiconductors, which require high-energy ultraviolet light to generate the electrons involved in the transformation of carbon dioxide. Although it efficiently converts carbon dioxide into other molecules solely in response to ultraviolet light, doping it with nitrogen greatly lowers the energy required to do so. Some start-ups are working on a different approach to transforming carbon dioxide into useful substances—namely, applying electricity to drive the chemical reactions.
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