New solution for carbon dioxide

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Sustainability and eco-friendliness have become a focus of our business and personal lives, and most people try to do their bit for the environment – whether it’s driving electric cars, recycling, or even composting food waste. These measures make us feel like we are contributing to a better planet, even though their impact is small on an individual level.

On a grand scale, though, each of these initiatives are making a difference. Not only is landfill volume down, but Earth’s entire ecosystem is taking less strain, according to experts. However, there is still room for improvement, with fossil fuels causing increasing volumes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and large industries still causing pollution in many areas of the world.

While scientists are constantly working on ways to minimise the impact of fossil fuels, new research not only offers an alternative pathway for safely and permanently removing greenhouse gas from our atmosphere, it creates a by-product that can be used as an electrode.

In a world-first breakthrough that could transform our approach to carbon capture and storage, researchers from RMIT University in Australia have developed a new technique that can efficiently convert carbon dioxide from a gas into solid particles of carbon. A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold electrical charge, becoming a super-capacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles.

Current technologies for carbon capture and storage focus on compressing carbon dioxide into a liquid form, transporting it to a suitable site and injecting it underground. The new technique can convert carbon dioxide back into carbon at room temperature, a process that's efficient and scalable, the researchers said.

To convert carbon dioxide, the researchers designed a liquid metal catalyst with specific surface properties that made it extremely efficient at conducting electricity while chemically activating the surface. The carbon dioxide is dissolved in a beaker filled with an electrolyte liquid and a small amount of the liquid metal, which is then charged with an electrical current. The carbon dioxide slowly converts into solid flakes of carbon, which are naturally detached from the liquid metal surface. This process allows for the continuous production of the solid carbon.

“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 researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke said in the press release.

The research team believes this is a first step toward an abundant and inexpensive method to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and repurpose it as solid coal. If they are right, their process could have as much of an impact on the environment as removing CFCs from spray bottles had.













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Crown Publications, one of South Africa’s largest business-to-business publishing houses, came into existence in 1986. Since then, the company has grown from producing a single magazine, Electricity SA (renamed Electricity+Control), to publishing six monthly magazines, three quarterlies, and a number of engineering handbooks.