Burning coal releases carbon dioxide into the air. What if the process could be reversed?
Some processes go in one direction only: it’s much easier to bake a batter than to extract flour, eggs, sugar and butter from a finished cake.
The same problem applies to carbon emissions: burning fossil fuels is a straightforward process but removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turning it back into coal is a far more challenging task.
However, an international team led by engineers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has done exactly that.
The process involves dissolving carbon dioxide in an electrolyte liquid that has small amounts of a cerium liquid metal catalyst added to it.
When the mixture is charged with an electric current, the dissolved carbon dioxide gradually converts into flakes of solid carbon. The process takes place at room temperature.
At the moment, carbon capture and storage involves compressing carbon dioxide into a liquid and sending it to a suitable underground location.
This method, however, can be costly and runs the risk of environmentally harmful leaks. According to RMIT researcher Senior Lecturer Dr Torben Daeneke, carbon dioxide had previously only been converted to a solid at an extremely high temperature.
“We’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scalable,” he said.
“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.”
RMIT’s Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh said one side benefit is the carbon ability to hold electrical charge.
“It could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles,” she said.
“The process also produces synthetic fuel as a byproduct, which could also have industrial applications.”
UNSW Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh, the project’s lead investigator, said he is excited at the possibility of reducing carbon emissions.
“From coal to CO2 and back to coal again, at room temperature and at low consumed energy — this is something we could only dream of doing before,” he said.
“But no one knew how.”
This article originally appeared as “Carbon capture made viable” in the June 2019 issue of create magazine.
This will require more energy than was extracted from the coal to begin with, so where does that energy come from?
Great science but for the wrong reasons.
CO2 is good for this planet and, as a person who studied Thermodynamics to 4th year university with honours, I assure you (as I’m sure many of the less politically driven, well qualified, members could also) it has nothing to do with global warming. Yes, nihil, nada, zip! It’s the sun that drives this planets climate and the various ocean cycles that play such a vital role in it). If you find this hard to believe and don’t trust thermodynamics, then maybe you would be swayed by the fact that there is absolutely no past correlation between atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and atmospheric temperatures.
If this process is economical then, coupled with great research that has been done at UQ, St Lucia, it could be a great way of producing liquid fuel that could be burnt in motor vehicles. This would address Australia’s present vulnerability with regard to fuel security. The energy needed for this process could be obtained from nuclear energy were it not for the fact that Engineers Australia has failed abysmally in the past in its duty to bring to all Australians the cheapest energy that is humanly possible through the adroit application of engineering science.
Copied from a published scientific paper.
Part of Abstract
The end-Triassic mass extinction, one of the five largest extinctions in Earth history, was a severe catastrophe in which 80% of all species were wiped out. The cause of the extinction is controversial, but any mechanism must account for mass extinction in both marine and terrestrial environments. One smoking gun–the eruption of the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP)–has prompted the hypothesis that CO2 degassing to the atmosphere may have induced an environmental catastrophe at the end-Triassic.
Even a minimal look into this proves statments provided in your comment are false.
What they are doing trying to do is convert bullshit into “research” funding. Any real engineer will tell you that cannot fail to take more energy to convert back to carbon than was initially released by burning the carbon.
The heat to electricity ratio in coal fired power plant is at best, AFAIK, 40%. I doubt if the electricity to carbon conversion is even that efficient, but let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and say 40%. So the round trip efficiency is 40% of 40%, or 16%.
So, whoever wrote that puff piece, would you sell me a $100 note for $16? Or stick to writing about politics, pop music, culture and cartoons
ONE, “the cause of the extinction is controversial” … NO empirical evidence….
TWO, One “smoking gun” etc….prompted hypothesis that CO2 etc.. Again, NO empirical evidence
leads YOU to a 100% unambiguous statement that Kevin’s comments are FALSE…
Where’s the logic here ??
CO2 is NOT the issue.. look back thru ice core EVIDENCE and you will not the surprising fact that CO2 levels FOLLOW Temperature by some 100’s of years… Increased temperature, in the past, has cause increased CO2 levels…..NOT the other way around.. Maybee, just maybe, something to do with the capacity of the oceans to absorb CO2 MORE when at a lower temperature, and LESS when warmed… something I remember being taught in school decades ago, and looks like being proven in the ice core records of temp vs CO2…