Solar Conversion of CO2 and Water Vapor to Hydrocarbon Fuels

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OPEN 2009
University Park, Pennsylvania
Project Term:
12/14/2009 - 07/09/2010

Critical Need:

Growing environmental concerns about increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel consumption have prompted research in the field of renewable fuels production using solar energy. Despite the abundant and renewable nature of solar energy, converting sunlight into a transportable and energy dense form economically continues to be a considerable challenge. Some technologies have shown great promise, but are still a long way from commercialization. Alternative, cost-effective methods that convert CO2 into usable fuels that fit within our existing energy infrastructure are needed.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is developing a novel sunlight to chemical fuel conversion system. This innovative technology is based on tuning the properties of nanotube arrays with co-catalysts to achieve efficient solar conversion of CO2 and water vapor to methane and other hydrocarbons. The goal of this project is to build a stand-alone collector which can achieve ~2% sunlight to chemical fuel conversion efficiency via CO2 reduction.

Potential Impact:

If successful, the team's nanotube arrays could support the efficient and economical conversion of CO2 into liquid transportation fuels.


Enabling alternative fuel sources and diversifying our energy portfolio, particularly for the transportation sector, would reduce U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil and improve our energy security.


Carbon capture and conversion technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.


Improving the cost-effectiveness of alternative, renewable fuel technologies could help insulate consumers from unexpected oil price shocks that threaten to raise the price of gas.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Eric Toone
Project Contact:
Dana Marsh
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Sentech Corporation

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