Researchers at Sandia National Laboratory have built a device, a counterrotating- ring receiver reactor recuperator, or CR5 for short, that uses sunlight to break a carbon-oxygen bond in CO2 to form CO and oxygen.
They intend on recombining the CO with water to make methanol or some other liquid fuel.
The researchers originally wanted to use the CR5 to break water into hydrogen and oxygen, a way to kickstart the hydrogen economy. But when CO2 and the dreaded carbon footprint became an issue, they decided to try the process on CO2. In effect, they want to take the by-product of burning fossil fuels, CO2, and reverse combustion to get CO, hydrogen, and water to make liquid fuels.
Although they have shown proof of concept and are completing a prototype, they admit the invention is 15 to 20 years away.