Science 3 min read

Researchers Develop Technique To Turn CO2 Into Solid Carbon

Steve Morfi / Shutterstock

Steve Morfi / Shutterstock

In a massive breakthrough, scientists have successfully converted carbon dioxide back to coal using liquid metal.

According to recent reports, a team of researchers at the RMIT University in Melbourne developed a new technique that converts carbon dioxide into a solid carbon particle.

For the first time, we may have a safe, efficient and permanent way of removing this greenhouse gas from our atmosphere.

Current technological efforts to capture and store atmospheric CO2 have proven inefficient. Aside from compressing the gas into a manageable form, engineers also need to find a suitable way to transport and store greenhouse gas in the soil.

Whether it’s the economic viability or environmental concerns, implementing this technique has been a bit challenging. The main concern is the issue of possible leaks around the storage site.

In a statement to the press, RMIT researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke said;

“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.”

As a result, it became necessary to develop a smarter way to collect and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. That’s what the RMIT researchers did. So, how does the conversion work?

How the Carbon Conversion Works

Image via RMIT University

The first step was to convert the carbon dioxide into a liquid. To do this, the researchers created a liquid metal catalyst with unique surface properties. As such, it could conduct electricity while activating the surface chemically.

The researchers filled a beaker with an electrolyte liquid and a small amount of the liquid metal. Then they dissolved carbon dioxide in the mixture. They then charged it with electrical current.

The result? The liquid CO2 mixture slowly converted into solid flakes of carbon. Since the solid carbon naturally detaches from the liquid metal surface, the carbonaceous solid continued to form until the carbon dioxide liquid was entirely exhausted.

The electrochemical technique was developed by the lead author, Dr. Dorna Esrafilzadeh, a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in RMIT’s School of Engineering.

According to the study’s lead author;

“A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold an electrical charge, becoming a supercapacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles.”

While the study is an early stage and obviously requires more research, it’s an essential first step towards producing solid carbon from atmospheric CO2.

Read More: New Plant Uses Carbon Capture Technology to Help Reverse Climate Change

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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