New Carbon Capture Tech Turns CO2 into Solid Carbon

New capture technology turns CO2 into solid carbon, a coal-like product that can be safely reburied.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

New capture technology turns CO2 into solid carbon, a coal-like product that can be safely reburied. Image Unsplash.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

New capture technology turns CO2 into solid carbon, a coal-like product that can be safely reburied.

Scientists may have discovered a groundbreaking new method to pull out of the air and convert CO2 into solid carbon flakes. Researchers at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have pioneered an efficient carbon mineralization process using liquid metal catalysts. This technology could provide a sustainable way to capture atmospheric CO2 and safely store it long-term as a stable solid.

Most carbon capture techniques today focus on compressing CO2 gas into a liquid that is injected deep underground. However potential leakage risks make this method less than ideal for permanently storing billions of tons of carbon dioxide. We urgently need innovative solutions to remove and safely store the CO2 already overburdening our atmosphere.

That’s why RMIT’s new mineralization approach to turn CO2 into solid carbon is so promising. It converts greenhouse gases into inert carbon solids at room temperature. This offers a potentially cheaper, more secure form of carbon storage compared to current methods.

RMIT’s method utilizes molten liquid metals to trigger a chemical reaction, transforming gaseous CO2 into solid carbon flakes. This occurs at ambient temperature inside a simple glass tube device. The process works by sending CO2 into the glass tube containing a liquid metal alloy of gallium, indium, tin, and cerium. Running an electric current through the metal accelerates the carbon mineralization reaction.

Carbon steadily accumulates as a layer of solid flakes on the liquid metal surface and the only byproduct of the process is pure oxygen. The flakes are then removed allowing the process to continue indefinitely. Because this process occurs are room temperature, the energy requirements are far lower than other systems.

See also: What is Carbon Capture and How Does it Work?

The researchers experimented with different metal compositions and temperature conditions to optimize the carbon conversion process. Once optimized, the system can continuously pull in and convert atmospheric CO2 into solid carbon without additional heat or pressure.

Unlike underground injection techniques, solid carbon can easily be collected for safe, permanent storage. The carbon solids could even be processed into materials like carbon fiber. And since the process only needs a small amount of electricity and air, it has minimal environmental impact or manufacturing costs.

Turning CO2 into solid carbon could be a more predictable, sustainable and longer lasting approach to carbon capture and storage. The RMIT team is already investigating ways to scale up the liquid metal carbon mineralization method. Adoption by power plants or heavy industry could significantly cut CO2 outputs.

Finding viable ways to remove excess greenhouse gases is critical to slow global warming. Since the Industrial Revolution, over 1.3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide have entered the atmosphere – and the pace is accelerating. New solutions like RMIT’s carbon mineralization technology will be essential to extracting legacy emissions already dangerously heating our planet.

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