Scientists Find Way TO Turn CO2 'Back Into Coal'

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The greenhouse gas can be removed from the atmosphere efficiently and converted back into a solid form.

Scientists from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have developed a new method of turning gaseous CO2 back into a solid form. The breakthrough technique could help remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere in an effort to fight climate change.Current carbon capture techniques are neither economically nor environmentally viable. They involve using extremely high temperatures to turn the gas into a liquid and inject it underground, leading to the risk of leakage at storage sites.

The research team’s new technique, published in the journal Nature Communications, offers a way to "safely and permanently" remove the greenhouse gas for safe storage or reuse. They designed a liquid metal catalyst with properties that allowed it to conduct electricity efficiently while chemically activating the surface. When dissolved in a beaker filled with electrolyte liquid along with the liquid metal, the CO2 slowly transforms into solid flakes. This “coal” naturally detach from the liquid metal surface, allowing for efficient 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,” said RMIT researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke. “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.”

Lead author Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh speculated that the solid carbon product has potential use as an electrode “A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold electrical charge, becoming a supercapacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles,” she said.

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