The Oasis Reporters
February 27, 2019.
There seem to be no end to what global Scientists can achieve. Imagine the technological breakthrough of collecting Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and turning it back into coal. This makes what we think of the gas, rather obsolete.
Forbes magazine reports that the research, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, provides a step-by-step guide in turning CO2 into coal, acting to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and lock it away in solid carbon form.
Carbon sequestration, the act of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away is a growing field aimed at mitigating climate change. Major oil and gas companies, like Shell, are spending billions of dollars to develop carbon sequestration plants that store CO2 in porous reservoirs within Earth. However, this approach is expensive as it requires CO2 to be compressed into liquid form and injected into rock formations within Earth. Due to cost, this approach is not economically viable without heavy subsidies and/or a carbon tax to help offset costs.
A schematic showing the use of liquid metal to convert CO2 into solid coal. RMIT UNIVERSITY
Though the method of solidifying CO2 has been a known process all along,
however, previous methods meant the use of extremely high temperatures making practically not viable beyond laboratory experiments.
This recent development adds another method to efficiently lock away carbon dioxide in a safe and long term way.
To convert CO2 from the atmosphere into solid carbon coal, the researchers used a cerium-containing liquid metal catalyst, which is uniquely efficient at conducting electricity and has specific properties.
When the researchers electrically charged a vessel with CO2 and the liquid metal, the carbon dioxide began to convert into small flakes of coal. The solid carbon flakes naturally detach from the liquid metal and fall to the bottom of the vessel, allowing for continual production of solid carbon from carbon dioxide. The end product can also hold an electrical charge, meaning it could be used as a supercapacitor after the process.
Carbon sequestration, the act of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it to a liquid or solid form, shows great promise in fighting climate change. As humans continue to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, an inexpensive and large scale method to remove CO2 from the atmosphere would provide an ideal solution.
The international research team from Germany, China, the United States and Australia believes this is a first step toward an abundant and inexpensive method to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and repurpose it as solid coal.
Coal that was being retired from use in favour of other sources for producing power, is likely to bounce back, since carbon dioxide is freely in the air. Environmentalists are certainly going to be excited about this new discovery.
Source: Trevor Nace (PhD geology), founder of Science Trends. He’s a contributor to Forbes magazine