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Renewable Pit Stop: Looping Technology

Biomass has for a long time been on the receiving end of much positive discussion, opinions and praise for its excellent environmental properties and relative ease of production.

In fact, it has nearly become a trendy buzzword for attracting attention for clean energy. However, for the time being, fossil fuel remains generally cheaper, more stable and faster to produce. While both methods no doubt have their merits, it’s hard to refute both efficiency and cost significantly favour fossil fuels.

To this end, engineers at The Ohio State University are investigating technologies to cost-effectively transform the aforementioned sources into usable products, e.g. electricity, without releasing carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere. The development was announced across two papers published in Energy & Environmental Science.

Of all the established methods of obtaining energy, Dashboard finds one particularly interesting. This process is capable of converting shale gas into methanol and gasoline products while consuming carbon dioxide gas at the same time. It also works on biofuel and can be moderated to not only consume whatever carbon dioxide it produces, but also use up external carbon dioxide, cleaning the air around it. The process was appropriately named looping technology by the researchers.

The looping technology functions by burning the energy source using metal oxide particles without any atmospheric oxygen present. Instead, it is supplied by the metal oxide particles itself, resulting in a more environmentally friendly way to generate energy.

According to the team of researchers at the University, this is only a temporary solution while alternative renewable methods continue to become more efficient and accessible. Liang-Shih Fan, distinguished professor in chemical and biomolecular engineering who is in charge of the team, says “renewables are the future. We need a bridge that allows us to create clean energy until we get there—something affordable we can use for the next 30 years or more, while wind and solar power become the prevailing technologies.” To further advance the technology in the meanwhile, the team are looking to collaborate with the industry.

Even if the team itself only see the technology as a momentary solution, Dashboard remains enthusiastic to see its further development, as even highly regarded green technologies are essentially environmentally neutral, the looping technology has a positive effect on it. It can also be very cost effective to use on a smaller scale, unlike wind or solar power, which is where we believe its value lies.