NGQDs is comparable in performance with copper when it comes to being a good electrocatalyst. But it goes a step ahead as it can also reduce the level of released CO2 by 90%, along with converting 45% of it into small amounts of ethylene and ethanol, which can be sustained for a substantial amount of time.

Credits: Ajayan Group/Rice University

CHALLENGES FOR THE FUEL KIT

The process is still under exploration and commercialization of such a product will require a lot of effort, but NGQDs are worth the trouble since they could give us a clean and cheap alternative to fuel source leading to a variety of useful applications in the future.

“I think what we found is fundamentally interesting, because it provides an efficient pathway to screen new types of catalysts to convert carbon dioxide to higher-value products,” Ajayan said.

NGQDs will face difficulties in convincing the industry to switch from thermal catalysis to electrocatalysis to create fuel, which are currently being used since they scale better.

At this scale, the nitrogen-doped graphene quantum dots stand out as circular patches from the substrate supporting them(Credit: Ajayan Group/Rice University)

“For that reason, companies probably won’t use it any time soon for large-scale production,” said Ajayan. “But electrocatalysis can be easily done in the lab, and we showed it will be useful in the development of new catalysts.”