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A tank full of sunlight and bacteria

Backed by a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation, a Lehigh research team is working to create a promising new method of producing renewable fuel.

Using only carbon dioxide, sunlight and water, the Lehigh researchers aim to perfect a low-cost, environmentally friendly process that could enable the production of methanol—which can be used as fuel for cars, heating appliances, electricity generation and more—at commercial scale.

The grant from the NSF’s Division of Emerging Frontiers in Research and Innovation (EFRI) will support the ongoing efforts of chemical engineering professors Steve McIntosh and Bryan Berger to produce low-cost quantum dots, or QDs, from bacteria. The QDs will capture the energy in sunlight to generate an energetic electron and electron hole pair. These catalyze the removal of hydrogen from water and carbon from CO2, and produce methanol, a renewable liquid fuel, in a continuous flow process.

The group's bio-QD catalysis process is far less expensive than traditional methods, plus it makes large-scale production of liquid fuels far more feasible.

Read the full story at the Lehigh University News Center.

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Hector Munoz-Avila

Dr. Bryan Berger, assistant professor of chemical engineering


Hector Munoz-Avila

Dr. Steve McIntosh, assistant professor of chemical engineering