Scientists figure out a way to remove carbon dioxide and clear the air

MIT researchers claim they’ve found a way to pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and put it in everything from sodas to exotic greenhouse gardens.

Myupchar October 29, 2019 13:51:01 IST
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Scientists figure out a way to remove carbon dioxide and clear the air
  • MIT researchers claim they've found a way to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it in everything from sodas to exotic greenhouse gardens

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) is just one of the gases that actively contributes to poor air quality

  • Globally, the average atmospheric CO2 in 2018 was 407.4 parts per million, which is estimated to have increased by 2.5 ppm from 2017

Delhi’s air quality index (AQI) has consistently registered an unhealthy 290 - 306 in the days after Diwali. AQI is a scale used for reporting day-to-day air quality. An AQI between 0 and 50 is considered good, 51-100 is satisfactory, 101-200 is moderate, 201-300 is unhealthy, 301-400 is very unhealthy, and 401-500 is considered severe.

This, just days after researchers said they had figured out a way to capture and reuse at least one gas that contributes to air pollution.

Scientists figure out a way to remove carbon dioxide and clear the air

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Clear the air

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is just one of the gases that actively contributes to poor air quality. How? It traps heat and ground-level radiation in the earth’s atmosphere, creating the conditions for the accumulation of another known pollutant - ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone can increase the chances of lung infection and exacerbate conditions like asthma and chronic bronchitis.

Also read: 17 Terrible Ways Air Pollution Can Affect Your Health

Globally, the average atmospheric CO2 in 2018 was 407.4 parts per million, which is estimated to have increased by 2.5 ppm from 2017. In other words, for every 1 million air particles you inhale, 407 of them are CO2 molecules.

Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim they’ve found a way to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and put it in everything from sodas to exotic greenhouse gardens.

More is more

MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian and T. Alan Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering, found a way to reduce carbon dioxide from the environment by passing air through a stack of charged electrochemical plates.

How?

The stacks of electrochemical plates are basically a large battery, with a superpower to absorb carbon dioxide.

Here’s more: when you turn this battery on by passing electricity through it, the electrodes stack themselves up like a ladder. Each stack of electrodes is coated with a polymer called polyanthraquinones (also used for making dyes) and carbon nanotubes. On top of each stack of electrodes, an electrochemical reaction occurs which increases their affinity (love) for CO2. In short, when electricity runs through these electrodes, these CO2-loving electrodes fall in love with CO2 all over again. When the device is fully charged up, the electrodes absorb CO2, even if it is present in very low quantities.

During the charging-up process, the device gives out “feed gas” and when it’s discharged, it gives out pure CO2. Feed gas, also known as feedstock gas, is a dry gas used as a raw material for LNG, petrochemicals and gas-to-liquid plants.

Double returns

This pure CO2 stream can be compressed and injected underground for long-term disposal. Or we could just harness it from the atmosphere for use in industry and agriculture. Here’s a quick list of where all we can use this bonus CO2:

  • Cola makers burn fossil fuel to generate CO2 for the fizz in their soft drinks. Farmers burn natural gas to produce CO2 to feed their plants in greenhouses. This device could replace fossil fuels and natural gas by harvesting 100% pure CO2 from the air.
  • Pure CO2 can be modified into fuel through a series of chemical and electrochemical processes.
  • The device is energy-efficient: it uses about one gigajoule of energy to capture one tonne of CO2. Other methods of producing the gas use up anywhere between 1 to 10 gigajoules for capturing one tonne of CO2.
  • This device is also technology-efficient - it requires low-tech electrodes and a polymer coat as the major component.

At present, the system can withstand at least 7,000 charging-discharging cycles, with a 30% loss in efficiency over that time. The researchers estimate that they can improve the charging-discharging cycle to 20,000-50,000 to reduce even more CO2 from the environment and simultaneously generate even more for the industries.

The researcher published their findings in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article Air Pollution May Lead to Diabetes

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