Cornell scientists convert carbon dioxide, create electricity

While the human race will always leave its carbon footprint on the Earth, it must continue to find ways to lessen the impact of its fossil fuel consumption."Carbon capture" technologies - chemically trapping carbon dioxide before it is released into the atmosphere - is one approach. In a recent study, Cornell University researchers disclose a novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas and converting it to a useful product - while producing electrical energy.Lynden Archer, the James A. Friend Family Distinguished Professor of Engineering, and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester the carbon dioxide and produce electricity.

Biological wizardry ferments carbon monoxide into biofuel

Cornell University biological engineers have deciphered the cellular strategy to make the biofuel ethanol, using an anaerobic microbe feeding on carbon monoxide - a common industrial waste gas."Instead of having the waste go to waste, you make it into something you want," said Ludmilla Aristilde, assistant professor in biological and environmental engineering. "In order to make the microbes do our work, we had to figure out how they work, their metabolism."Aristilde collaborated with her colleague Lars Angenent, professor of biological and environmental engineering, on the project. She explained, "The Angenent group had taken a waste product and turned it into a useful product."To make biofuel from inorganic, gaseous industrial rubbish, the researchers learned that the bacterium Clostridium ljungdahlii responds thermodynamically - rather than genetically - in the process of tuning favorable enzymatic reactions.

Cornell finds molecule in space that connotes life origins

Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule – one with a branched structure – contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. Like finding a molecular needle in a cosmic haystack, astronomers have detected radio waves emitted by isopropyl cyanide. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.