-Dr. Richa Bobade
As per the US EPA report, emissions in 2019 were 6558 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. The current estimations of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming suggest the need to develop net carbon zero technology. Hence innovation is needed across industries to help combat emissions and decarbonize their processes. Universities and research centers are the hub for developing new ideas and innovations to address industry related issues. Australia based researcher, Dr. Ken Chiang from RMIT University has suggested that although there are technologies that appear to be at experimental level and posing risk factors today but with proper university-industry collaborations, these processes can be de-risked.
Current technology for carbon capture and storage (CSS) largely focuses on compressing the gas into liquid and then injecting it underground. This is a physical process that transfers CO2 from one medium to another. In contrast to the traditional process, the Australian researchers have come up with a new strategy which chemically converts CO2 into solid carbon. This method avoids accidental carbon release in the atmosphere and locks it away securely and indefinitely.
The researchers from RMIT University believe their technology is a potential game-changer for steel and concrete manufacturing, which are fuelling climate change. Co-lead researcher Associate Professor Torben Daeneke has described the process and said “The thermal chemistry methods involved in this technology are widely used by industry, but our specific approach is the first of its kind. The “bubble column” method starts with liquid metal being heated to about 100-120 °C. Carbon dioxide is injected into the liquid metal, with the gas bubbles rising up just like bubbles in a champagne glass. As the bubbles move through the liquid metal, the gas molecule splits up to form flakes of solid carbon, with the reaction taking just a split second. It is the extraordinary speed of the chemical reaction we have achieved that makes our technology commercially viable, where so many alternative approaches have struggled.”
The technology can be easily scaled up and can break down CO2 to carbon in an instant helping industries and governments to deliver on their climate commitments. The team is also investigating potential applications for the converted (solid) carbon, including in construction materials. Daeneke said “Ideally the carbon we make could be turned into a value-added product, contributing to the circular economy and enabling the CCS technology to pay for itself over time.” With many dedicated scientists and engineers’ worldwide working on this challenge, there is great scope for the emergence of smart, practical solutions that can make a significant impact.
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