A new powder has been created by scientists at the University of Waterloo that can filter and remove CO2 from the air at factories and power plants. According to the researchers, they have managed to make the substance twice as efficient in preventing CO2 from reaching the atmosphere.
Once the powder is saturated with carbon dioxide captured at large facilities, the powder could be transported to storage sites and buried underground.
The substance was developed in the lab of Zhongwei Chen, who is a professor of Chemical Engineering. He explained that the technique used by the team could also be used to produce carbon powders for other applications, such as water filtration and energy storage.
“This will be more and more important in the future,” said Professor Chen. “We have to find ways to deal with all the CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels.”
In a process known as adsorption, CO2 molecules stick to the surface of carbon when they come in contact with it. Carbon is an ideal candidate for CO2 capture because it is abundant, inexpensive, and environmentally friendly.
The research team, which also included experts at several universities in China, set out to improve the adhesive performance of adsorption by manipulating the size and concentration of pores in carbon materials.
Ultimately, the researchers developed a system that uses heat and salt to extract a black carbon powder from plant matter. The powder is made up of carbon spheres that have an abundance of microscopic pores.
Professor Chen explained, “The porosity of this material is extremely high. And because of their size, these pores can capture CO2 very efficiently. The performance is almost doubled.”
The study is published in the journal Carbon.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer