Title:
Fuel production from atmospheric CO2 and H20 by artificial photosynthesis and method of operation thereof
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates generally to reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide and to fuel production, and more specifically, to carbonaceous fuel production by means of utilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water by “artificial photosynthesis”, as defined herein and methods of operation thereof.



Inventors:
Young, Edgar D. (Cashiers, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/827814
Publication Date:
01/15/2009
Filing Date:
07/12/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
C10L8/00
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Primary Examiner:
GREGORIO, GUINEVER S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Charlotte C. Wilson (Moore, SC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is, at least:

1. A method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel, said method comprising the steps of: within a first sub-process, producing carbonaceous fuel from air through the utilization of rapid oxidation of a metal; within a second sub-process, recovering the elemental metal from the metal oxide.

2. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel of claim 1, and wherein the metal comprises magnesium.

3. The method for recovering elemental metal from metal oxide according to claim 1, wherein said process of recovering elemental metal from metal oxide further comprises potential utilization of such metal in a metallic fuel cell.

4. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 2, and wherein said process of recovering magnesium further includes utilization of water as a catalyst and oxygen as a byproduct.

5. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and method for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, and wherein said process of recovering magnesium further includes utilization of magnesium oxide produced as a byproduct from said first sub-process.

6. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, and wherein said second sub-process is electrolytic.

7. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, wherein said second electrolytic sub-process further utilizes solar power.

8. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, wherein said second electrolytic sub-process further utilizes geothermal power means.

9. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, wherein said second electrolytic sub-process further utilizes wind power.

10. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, and wherein said sub-process of isolating carbon dioxide from air further includes the step of reducing temperature to form frozen carbon dioxide.

11. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1, and wherein said production of carbonaceous fuel further includes utilization of a catalyzed chemical reaction in which carbon monoxide and hydrogen are converted into liquid hydrocarbon.

12. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 11, and wherein said catalyzed chemical reaction comprises the Fischer-Tropsch process.

13. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and method for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 5, and wherein said process of recovering magnesium further comprises the conversion of MgO to MgCl2.

14. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and method for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 13, and wherein said process of recovering magnesium utilizing the conversion of magnesium oxide to magnesium further comprises the use of electrolytic means and wherein the polarity thereof is reversed to provide elemental magnesium metal at one electrode and chlorine at the other electrode.

15. The method for reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and for producing carbonaceous fuel according to claim 1 and within said second sub-process thereof for recovering the elemental metal from the metal oxide, further comprising the use of a magnesium/nickel chromium battery.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to fuel production, and more specifically, to carbonaceous fuel production by means of utilization of atmospheric carbon dioxide and water by “artificial photosynthesis”, as defined herein, and methods of operation thereof.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The current state of affairs regarding Carbon Dioxide and its close relationship to global warming has reached an all time high. Many responsible sources contend that the condition of the earth's atmosphere is such that, in order to avoid the predicted dire consequences of global warming affects, removal of a portion of the existing, and increased, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (in a preferred amount approximating one billion tons annually for about a decade) is needed.

The methods of the present invention meet these drastic requirements and also further provide a substantial environmental benefit in which the inventive processes hereof would require no additional energy from present earth-based fuel sources. Furthermore, the present processes produce useful and essential fuels which can be further beneficially utilized. These substantial advantages promise to usher in an energy and environmental management era of efficient and accurate climate control engineering. These results could be accomplished using known but presently unused control theories, together with and in combination with reasonable open-loop models for short term and extended climatic change. Moreover, and despite the long-felt need in the art for the salutary benefits provided by the several embodiments of the present invention as disclosed and claimed herein, those skilled in the art have not formulated, or discovered, or utilized these most propitious solutions.

Furthermore, the product fuels produced by means of the methods of the present invention can be stored compactly and efficiently at the site of their production, and thus resulting in but minimal environmental impact, and with no necessity to transport hazardous materials. As a matter of yet further efficiency, the required energy for use in the methods of the present invention could be harvested from solar collecting or by wind powered or geothermal means within the vicinity of local processing plants.

The economics of preferred embodiments of the inventive processes hereof are such that the cost of supplying energy for customer use, including electric auto transportation plus climate control storage, could additionally allow for commonly realized profit margins, while maintaining costs at the levels traditionally charged to a customer. Furthermore, when climate levels have become stabilized according to the methods of the invention hereof, profit margins would rise substantially and/or customer costs could be substantially reduced.

A chemical process known to those skilled in the art for isolating carbon by utilizing CO2 comprises the oxidation through burning of shredded magnesium inside a split block of frozen CO2. The Carbon thus produced appears in sizeable chunks mixed together with chunks of magnesium oxide ash, and whereupon, the CO2 and MgO can be facilitatively separated by means of shaking, combined with crushing and shifting. By these means this separation process accordingly utilizes differences in the density of the CO2 and MgO components of the mixture.

One further method for performing combustion of magnesium in CO2 gas has been performed by the University of North Carolina, and wherein a ribbon of magnesium is burned in a chamber of suitable and selected size, thereby producing flecks of carbon and oxide as collected upon the chamber walls, and wherein particle size and product separation are shown to comprise functions of the magnesium preparation, combustion chamber size and the temperature profile maintained within.

However, and as the combustion of magnesium is extremely exothermic, it is therefore clear that substantial advantages appear when excess heat from such a reaction chamber is harnessed by means of a heat engine cycle, resulting in the supplying of electric power to augment an input electric grid. Wherefore, these considerations may impose constraints upon the combustion chamber design under the corresponding embodiment hereof, as well as upon the separation process.

Yet further, the process for producing solid carbon can be reduced to a secondary sub-process for isolating CO2 from the air, followed by a secondary combustion process utilizing the crucial fact that CO2 supports combustion of Magnesium metal. Finally, a process has been provided for separating carbon produced from the magnesium oxide ash, and processes for isolating CO2 include freezing CO2 ice or the use of selective solvents. These various aspects of the prior art methods necessitate different combustion chamber design requirements and physical separation requirements.

In one yet further prior art method, magnesium is then recovered from the magnesium oxide ash using electrolysis, as oxygen is expelled therefrom. As set forth hereinbelow, at the end of the essentially cyclic processes of the present invention, all byproducts of the process may be returned to their initial status.

Common procedures for converting MgO to Mg, converting first to MgCl2 by use of hydrochloric acid (releasing water) and thereafter decompose the magnesium chloride by electrolysis in a molten salt electrolyte. Chlorine (given off at the anode) is combined with Hydrogen (from electrolysis of water) to recover Hydrochloric Acid.

In summary, various aspects of the problem of atmospheric CO2 management have been addressed in previous inventions. However, none have provided the free selection of carbonaceous fuels to be produced efficiently and in a substantial capacity. Accordingly, the beneficial aspects of the present invention include the provision of processes for producing carbonaceous fuel from a first sub-process of isolating CO2 from the atmosphere and a second sub-process for recovering magnesium.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide and to fuel production, and more specifically, to carbonaceous fuel production by means of utilization of atmospheric CO2 and H20 by “artificial photosynthesis”, as defined herein and methods of operation thereof.

The inventive methods of the present invention may preferably comprise in the main process sub-processes for (a) producing carbon, and (b) for recovering magnesium. The production of carbon of step (a) may be sub-divided further into tertiary processes for isolating CO2, for producing carbon, and for separating from byproducts or ash. Yet additionally, the processes hereof may utilize the Fischer-Tropsch process as an option for producing a variety of hydrocarbon fuels.

The present invention may be better understood by those skilled in the art, but not unnecessarily limited, with regard to and by reference to the following detailed description of the drawing, the detailed description of preferred embodiments, the appended clams and the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Accordingly, the present invention may be better understood by those skilled in the art through consideration of, and reference to, the following Figures, viewed in conjunction with the Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiment referring thereto, in which like reference numbers throughout the various Figures designate like structure and in which:

FIG. 1 shows a breakdown of the main process into sub-processes for producing carbon and for recovering magnesium;

FIG. 2 shows the breakdown of carbon production as a process into secondary processes for isolating carbon dioxide, producing carbon, and separating from byproducts or ash; and

FIG. 3 shows an extension of the main process (1) utilizing the Fischer-Tropsch process as an option for producing a variety of hydrocarbon fuels.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In describing preferred embodiments of the present invention illustrated in the Figures, specific terminology may be employed for the sake of clarity. The present invention, however, is not intended to be limited to the specific terminology so selected, and it is to be understood that each specific element or step hereof includes all technological equivalents that operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose.

In one form of the preferred embodiment of the present invention as chosen for purposes of illustration, FIG. 1 shows a breakdown of the main process into sub-processes for producing carbon and for recovering magnesium, and further providing schematic details of Process 1.1, and in which the input therefrom comprises the use of CO2 and magnesium or other similar metal, and the output therefrom constitutes metallic oxide and plant related fuel in the form of carbon. The means used therein preferably comprise electricity, in the form of solar energy, wind poser of geothermal means.

Process 1.2 of the inventive methods hereof as illustrated schematically in FIG. 1 utilizes in preferred embodiments thereof as input H2O and spent fuel cell fuel in the preferred form of magnesium oxide, and produces as output oxygen and fuel cell fuel in the preferred form of elemental magnesium, and again using therein energy means preferably comprising electricity, solar energy, wind power, or geothermal means.

Illustrated schematically in FIG. 2 is a more detailed breakdown of process 1.1 of FIG. 1, supra, and is directed to carbon production as a process into secondary processes for isolating CO2, producing carbon, and separating from byproducts or ash, and constitutes the sub-steps of:

1. Separating CO2 from air, and with air as an input, and carbon dioxide as an output;

2. Combustion of magnesium in carbon dioxide, and utilizing magnesium from the recovery process of Process 1.2, supra; and

3. Separating the desire product from the ash and with carbon and magnesium oxide as outputs.

FIG. 3 schematically illustrates an extension of the main process to the basic formation of hydrocarbon fuels, and having an input of water and atmospheric carbon dioxide together with the fuel cell fuel, in the preferred form of magnesium oxide, and having as output non-hydrogen fuel for the fuel cell in the preferred form of magnesium and plant related fuel in the form of carbon, and also the energy used therein preferably comprises electricity, in the form of solar energy, wind power or geothermal means. In sub-step 2 of FIG. 3, the fuel conversion is accomplished by means of the Fischer-Tropsch Process, and wherein the input is water and Plant related fuel, in the form of carbon, and the energy used therein preferably comprises electricity, in the form of solar energy, wind power or geothermal means.

In greater detail, embodiments of the present invention may be beneficially utilized to materially reduce the above-mentioned disadvantages, deficiencies and detriments of prior art systems and simultaneously to address the long-felt need for increased fuel production—and more specifically, carbonaceous fuel production—by means of atmospheric CO2 and H2O by “artificial photosynthesis” and a method of operation thereof. Accordingly, the preferred embodiments of the present invention are directed towards methods for producing carbonaceous fuel from first sub-process of isolating CO2 from air, a second sub-process for producing carbon by burning magnesium and a third sub-process for recovering magnesium.

Preferred embodiments of the present invention utilize atmospheric carbon dioxide and water to produce a variety of carbonaceous fuels. Advantageously, the only energy required for the inventive processes hereof is electrical energy, which may be obtained by solar energy means. This process may be thus defined herein, and as used herein, as “artificial photosynthesis”. The “artificial photosynthesis” processes of the present invention can be operated to produce substantially no byproducts. In alternative preferred embodiments, the processes of artificial photosynthesis can optionally be operated to provide additional metallic-type fuels, which accordingly may be considered to be optimal for fuel cell applications.

In somewhat greater detail, preferred embodiments of the inventive processes hereof comprise a first sub-process for producing carbonaceous fuel (carbon) from atmospheric CO2 and/or from a metallic fuel cell system utilizing magnesium, and a second process for recovering magnesium from magnesium oxide produced as a byproduct or ash from the first sub-process, with the use of water as a catalyst and oxygen as a byproduct—as in natural photosynthesis, but however utilizing man-directed means.

The second sub-process is essentially for the purpose of recovering magnesium. However, in further preferred embodiments of the methods of the present invention, metals other than magnesium that will readily and rapidly oxidize may be utilized in these aspects of the methods hereof. These metal recovery processes can in certain preferred embodiments be electrolytic, which in essence would require electrical energy. Among the most efficient mechanisms for providing this electrical energy include solar power.

Conceptually, if magnesium were considered to be “fuel” for a fuel cell, magnesium oxide would thus be defined as a byproduct or an “ash” within a spent fuel cell. Excess products such as such ashes can accordingly be reprocessed in the second sub-process to recover magnesium as “fuel” for the yet further use with in the fuel cell.

Yet further, utilizing the carbon fuel from the second sub-process produces a variety of hydrocarbon fuels. These are produced by feeding carbon into a catalytic process to synthesize hydrocarbons and their oxygen derivatives by the controlled reaction of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

Furthermore, in order to convert MgO to MgCl2, an alternative embodiment hereof may utilize a magnesium/nickel chromium battery (with the magnesium cathode replaced with magnesium oxide). Thereafter, a reverse charge voltage would be applied which would transport chloride ions to the cathode and produce nascent chlorine. When the voltage is reversed, magnesium is recovered at the cathode and the chlorine goes back to storage at the anode. Thereupon, hydrogen from electrolysis of water may be introduced at the electrode to react with the chlorine, and as a result would thereafter react with magnesium oxide to produce magnesium chloride and thereby recover water. A benefit of this process would be the fact that transport of the chlorine gas would not be necessary.

It is to be noted that the figures presented herein are intended solely for the purpose of illustration and that they are, therefore, neither desired to limit nor intended to limit the present invention to any or all of the details of construction or method as shown, except insofar as they may be deemed essential to the claimed invention.

Having, thus, described exemplary embodiments of the present invention, it should be noted by those skilled in the art, that the within disclosures are exemplary only and that various other alternatives, adaptations, and modifications may be made within the scope and spirit of the present invention. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to the specific embodiments as illustrated herein, but is only limited by the following claims.