New technology turns carbon dioxide into… a baking ingredient?

Carbon capture is an upcoming technology which involves the capture of carbon dioxide emissions from industrial processes, such as steel and cement production, or from the burning of fossil fuels in power generation. This carbon is then transported from where it was produced, via ship or in a pipeline, and stored deep underground in geological formations (National Grid)

Because the material is so thin, it is hard to capture CO2 from the air: Only about 400 of the millions of particles in the air contain carbon dioxide. However, even this small amount has a significant impact on the climate. Direct air capture machines pull air through filters that trap CO2 by chemically reacting with it. However, the current materials are unable to capture a lot at once, and the entire process consumes a lot of energy. It’s simpler to catch more at a concentrated wellspring of contamination like a coal power plant, however pulling the CO2 from the air enjoys the benefit of having the option to happen anyplace, and can likewise catch old discharges as the world creates some distance from petroleum products.

According to Fast Company, this CCS filter’s material was redesigned by Lehigh University researchers by adding copper, making it three times more efficient than the current model. Even more carbon can be captured by it than by a filter placed directly on a smokestack. “Our work showed that even at ultra-dilute concentration, the capturing capacity of CO2 can be . . . much higher than what other adsorbents are doing with point sources,” says lead investigator Arup SenGupta.

The whole process costs less when the material has more capacity; SenGupta believes that the industry’s goal of $100 per ton of CO2 captured could be easily achieved. This indicates that direct air capture will continue its rapid expansion. Only a few thousand metric tons of CO2 are currently being removed annually by the emerging direct air capture industry. Each of the new plants that are currently being built will be able to remove 1 million tons of CO2 annually. However, in order to achieve climate goals, scientists anticipate that by the middle of the century, an annual average of 6 billion tons of CO2 will need to be removed.

The new technology could capture CO2 and inject it underground, similar to how carbon is currently stored at an Icelandic direct air capture plant. However, due to the change in chemistry, it may also end up in the sea. After the channel tops off with carbon dioxide, running seawater through the material makes another compound response, delivering sodium bicarbonate, or baking pop. In theory, the baking soda could be thrown into the ocean. The alkalinity of the baking soda may be able to counteract ocean acidification, another effect of climate change, if this can be done safely and legally.

In total, capturing carbon naturally has already seen great effects, but by turning it into usable materials, our sustainability goals are twice likely to be met. 

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