120 Year-Old Chemical Equation Could Solve CO2 Problem

Cornell University scientists have published a study in the journal ACS Catalysis stating that the Cottrell equation, a 120-year-old chemical equation named after chemist Frederick Gardner Cottrell, could potentially solve the problem of recycling CO2.

Cornell University scientists have dusted off an archaic – now 120 year old – electrochemical equation. The goal is to manage atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert the gas into a useful products.

The team’s work has been published in the journal ACS Catalysis.

The calculation – named the Cottrell equation for chemist Frederick Gardner Cottrell, who developed it in 1903 – can help today’s researchers understand the several reactions that carbon dioxide can take when electrochemistry is applied and pulsed on a lab bench.

The electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide presents an opportunity to transform the gas from an environmental liability to a feedstock for chemical products or as a medium to store renewable electricity in the form of chemical bonds, as nature does.

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Lead author Rileigh Casebolt DiDomenico, a chemical engineering doctoral student at Cornell under the supervision of Prof. Tobias Hanrath offered the background, “For carbon dioxide, the better we understand the reaction pathways, the better we can control the reaction – which is what we want in the long term. If we have better control over the reaction, then we can make what we want, when we want to make it. The Cottrell equation is the tool that helps us to get there.”

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