Scientists make coal from CO2 in climate change alchemy

Brittany A. Roston - Feb 26, 2019, 1:53 pm CDT
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Scientists make coal from CO2 in climate change alchemy

Scientists have revealed a new process that turns carbon dioxide back into coal, offering a potential way to capture the greenhouse gas and sequester it from the atmosphere. This is the first time researchers have developed a way to transform carbon dioxide into solid carbon particles, adding it to the list of existing technologies and breakthroughs involving carbon capture and storage.

Carbon sequestration is a process that involves capturing the harmful greenhouse gas, CO2, and storing it long-term to prevent its escape into the atmosphere. Various potential carbon sequestration solutions have been presented over the years, and the new carbon to coal conversion is the latest counted among them.

The research was recently published in the journal Nature Communications, where the scientists explain that this method may provide a safe and permanent way to remove this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. In the past, methods to convert CO2 into a solid required very high temperatures and was economically problematic, among other things.

The new method involves a liquid metal catalyst joined by an electrolyte liquid in a beaker. Carbon dioxide is dissolved into this beaker with the solution, which is then charge using an electrical current. During this process, the CO2 forms solid carbon flakes, which could be buried underground to keep the gas out of the atmosphere.

Talking about this was RMIT researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke, who explained:

While we can’t literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock … By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scalable. While more research needs to be done, it’s a crucial first step to delivering solid storage of carbon.


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