Scientists Create Mineral That Removes Carbon Dioxide From Atmosphere

Posted: Aug 15 2018, 7:13am CDT | by , Updated: Aug 15 2018, 7:16am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Scientists Create Mineral That Removes Carbon Dioxide from Atmosphere
Credit: Ian Power

Removing carbon emissions is a critical step to stop climate change

Scientists have discovered a way to make magnesite in the lab. Magnesite is a mineral that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Mass production of this mineral could provide a safer long term solution to reduce carbon emissions in atmosphere and to reverse climate change.

Rising levels of carbon dioxide in atmosphere accelerate climate change and global warming. Carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning is the primary driver of climate change and scientists are already making efforts to slow down global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere.

The most widespread strategy for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is growing plants, which absorb CO2 and produce energy from it. Global oceans also absorb a lot of carbon dioxide, storing around a quarter of carbon emissions coming from fossil fuel combustion. Carbon trapped in Earth’s minerals is also a factor in the equation. Specifically, magnesite can remove around half a ton of CO2 from the atmosphere and store it for long periods, but the rate of formation is very low. It takes a long time and certain conditions to form this naturally-occurring mineral. Now, for the first time, researchers have explained how magnesite forms at low temperature and offered a route to dramatically accelerating its crystallization.

"Our work shows two things. Firstly, we have explained how and how fast magnesite forms naturally. This is a process which takes hundreds to thousands of years in nature at Earth's surface. The second thing we have done is to demonstrate a pathway which speeds this process up dramatically." Project leader, Professor Ian Power from Trent University, Ontario, Canada said.

Researchers used polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst or to accelerate chemical reaction during the process and formed magnesite within 72 days.

"Using microspheres means that we were able to speed up magnesite formation by orders of magnitude. This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient,” said Power.

“For now, we recognize that this is an experimental process, and will need to be scaled up before we can be sure that magnesite can be used in carbon sequestration (taking CO2 from the atmosphere and permanently storing it as magnesite). That depends on several variables, including the price of carbon and the refinement of the sequestration technology, but we now know that the science makes it do-able.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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