Scientists Fashion Mineral That Can Suck CO2 Out Of The Air

16 Août, 2018, 02:35 | Auteur: Therese Cote

Carbon trapped in Earth's minerals is also a factor in the equation.

Magnesite is a mineral that has the capability to store carbon dioxide.

The researchers say that getting magnesite formation to the industrial level required to help combat climate change is a ways off, but that the results show that from a scientific perspective, it's not an impossibility. A group of scientists led by Ian Power of Trent University in Canada have announced the development of a system that can trap Carbon dioxide in a naturally occurring mineral at a much faster rate than it can on its own, potentially opening the door for new weapons against climate change. Specifically, magnesite can remove around half a ton of Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it for long periods, but the rate of formation is very low.

Eventually the team stumbled upon the solution by using tiny balls of polystyrene to speed up for the formation of the mineral by a huge degree. On the surface of our planet, this mineral crystalized in a period of up to thousands of years. "Firstly, we have explained how and how fast magnesite forms naturally".

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"It is really exciting that this group has worked out the mechanism of natural magnesite crystallization at low temperatures, as has been previously observed - but not explained - in weathering of ultramafic rocks", said Peter Kelemen, a professor at Columbia University who was not involved in the study.

Professor Peter Kelemen (Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University) stated that the project's finding is important and it can potentially offer "a benign and relatively cheap route to carbon storage, and perhaps even direct CO2 removal from air". Power adds that the team demonstrated "a pathway which speeds this process up dramatically".

"Using microspheres means that we were able to speed up magnesite formation by orders of magnitude", said Power. "This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient", Power added.

More from Professor Power: "For now, we recognize that this is an experimental process, and will need to be scaled up before we can be sure that magnesite can be used in carbon sequestration. That depends on several variables, including the price of carbon and the refinement of the sequestration technology, but we now know that the science makes it do-able".

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