In France, a team of researchers affiliated with French several institutions has found a way to improve the conversion of CO2 into fuels by mimicking the behavior of the diving bell spider. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, the group describes using captured air bubbles to improve the conversion efficiency of carbon dioxide into usable fuels.
Diving bell spiders are able to swim underwater because they have strongly hydrophobic hairs on their underbelly that allow for trapping an air bubble, which the spider uses to breathe under water. The researchers thought that if the copper in a CO2 conversion process did roughly the same thing, more carbon dioxide would be exposed to the copper during conversion, improving efficiency. To that end, they forged a piece of copper with tiny, tree-like shapes on its surface and coated it with a hydrophobic material. When the copper was dunked into a CO2-containing solution, bubbles formed on the surface of the copper. And when electricity was applied, the conversion process occurred as usual, with one major difference. The process was much more efficient.