Scientists turn CO2 back into Coal in a world first major breakthrough

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Scientists turn CO2 back into Coal in a world first major breakthrough

In a breakthrough that could potentially help remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, scientists have managed to turn CO2 from a gas back into a solid “coal.”

They say that the groundbreaking technique can effectively convert CO2 from a gas into solid carbon particles.

How it started

The research team was led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, which developed a new technique using a method of liquid metal electrolysis that efficiently converts CO2 from a gas into solid carbon particles.

In a published journal Nature Communications, the authors say their technology provides an alternative path to removing CO2 from the atmosphere “safely and permanently”.

Dr. Torben Daeneke, RMIT researcher and an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow, 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”.

The Technique of Doing So

Current carbon capture techniques involve converting the gas into a liquid and injecting it underground, but their use is not widespread due to economic viability issues and environmental concerns about storage site leakage.

Daeneke said, “To date, CO2 has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially unviable.

The new technique is an electrochemical one. It is made up of a specially-designed liquid metal catalyst that sees slowly converted carbon dioxide from gas into solid carbon flakes.

The carbon dioxide is dissolved together with a small amount of liquid metal in a beaker filled with an electrolyte liquid, which is then charged with an electrical current.The CO2 slowly transforms into solid flakes that are naturally detached from the surface of liquid metal, allowing continuous production.

“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.”

Better yet, researchers say that it is also possible to use the carbon produced as an electrode.

Lead author, Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh, a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in RMIT’s School of Engineering, said, “A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold an electrical charge, becoming a super capacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles. The process also produces synthetic fuel as a by-product, which could also have industrial applications.”

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