Researchers have found a way to rapidly produce the mineral magnesite, which can be used as a long-term storage solution for harmful CO2 in the atmosphere. Magnesite forms slowly in nature, presenting issues around using the mineral to deal with atmospheric CO2. However, researchers have presented a way to rapidly increase magnesite formation, opening the door to a potentially more economical way to address climate change.
In nature, magnesite requires hundreds or thousands of years to crystallize, a process reduced to 72 days using the scientists’ method. Researchers explain that polystyrene microspheres offer the solution, serving as a catalyst that results in relatively rapid formation. Researchers indicate the microspheres may be reusable, helping keep costs down.
The information was presented in Boston recently at the Goldschmidt conference, according to Phys. The process of rapid magnesite formation is described as experimental at this point, one key element being the need to scale it up to the industrial level if it’s to be used for meaningful CO2 sequestration.
The US Geological Survey has an extensive page explaining carbon sequestration, which is a process that can happen both naturally and artificially. Scientists around the world are working on artificial methods to trap CO2, a harmful greenhouse gas, in a way that can be stored long term. Carbon sequestration in naturally observed in soils, vegetation, aquatic regions, and more.
The USGS is assessing the possibility of carbon sequestration involving saline formations and oil/gas reservoirs. The new magnesite formation process detailed above presents another possibility, potentially facilitating the production of large quantities of the mineral to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it safely.
Image by Rob Lavinksy via Wikicommons