Copper cat

Despite endless political machinations the world over, the cause of sustainable energy is high on the scientific agenda. Now, a discovery at Stanford University could lead to a new way to make ethanol for fuel without having to grow fuel crops, such as corn, from which ethanol and thence biofuels are derived. Thomas Jaramillo and colleagues have used a specific form of copper (copper 751 as opposed to copper 100 or 111) as a room temperature catalytic electrode to combine carbon dioxide and water electrochemically without making all the byproducts of the copper 100 and copper 111 systems, such as propanal and methanol. The work is also informing the fundamental science of metal surfaces and the team will move on to look at nickel soon.