Technology has struggled with CO₂ emissions, but a pair of chemists may have found the way to mitigate greenhouse gases.
Nanoparticles may be the answer to the world’s greenhouse gas dilemma, a team scientists working at Australia’s RMIT University in Melbourne announced Wednesday.
Chemists Dorna Esrafilzadeh and Torben Daeneke have developed an affordable and quick-acting solution to convert Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) into solid carbon, an article published in the Nature Communication journal reports.
For decades, technology has struggled to control the compounding clouds of CO₂ entering the atmosphere by testing various costly or time-consuming methods such as underground gas reservoirs or introducing Amazonian regions to biochar- the practice of growing and burying biomass.
However, with the use of catalyst created from a base of metallic alloys, a drop of cerium, oxygen, and and a touch of electricity, the team of chemists were able to transform carbon dioxide into solid coal flakes.
"To date, CO₂ has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially unviable. 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,” said Daeneke.
Although Esrafilzadeh and Daeneke are still analyzing the exact mechanism behind the recent discovery, they are not discouraged and say the experiment is the “first step” to in reversing emissions and essentially reconstruct the mountains of coal excavated by miners.
“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,” Daeneke said.
Due to carbon’s unusual ability to hold an electric charge, the substance could essentially be used to power vehicles, said Esrafilzadeh, who was lead author and a RMIT vice-chancellor's research fellow.
"The process also produces synthetic fuel as a by-product, which could also have industrial applications."
Daeneke said, "While more research needs to be done, it's a crucial first step to delivering solid storage of carbon.”