Scientists Just Pulled CO2 From Air And Turned It Into Coal-Trevor Nace


Caterpillar tractors collect black coal pile. Illustration of supply field of a power station. Credit: GettyGetty

Scientists have discovered a breakthrough technology, a way to pull CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it back into coal. This new discovery has the potential to change the way we think about CO2.

The research, recently published in the journal Nature Communications, provides a step-by-step guide in turning CO2 into coal, acting to remove the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere and lock it away in solid carbon form.

Carbon sequestration, the act of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and locking it away is a growing field aimed at mitigating climate change. Major oil and gas companies, like Shell, are spending billions of dollars to develop carbon sequestration plants that store CO2 in porous reservoirs within Earth. However, this approach is expensive as it requires CO2 to be compressed into liquid form and injected into rock formations within Earth. Due to cost, this approach is not economically viable without heavy subsidies and/or a carbon tax to help offset costs.

A schematic showing the use of liquid metal to convert CO2 into solid coal. RMIT University

This recent development adds another method to efficiently lock away carbon dioxide in a safe and long term way. This isn’t the first time scientists converted carbon dioxide into a solid form, however, previous techniques required extremely high temperatures making the approach not practical beyond a laboratory setting.

To convert CO2 from the atmosphere into solid carbon coal, the researchers used a cerium-containing liquid metal catalyst, which is uniquely efficient at conducting electricity and has specific properties.

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