Until the day the world can actually stop using dirty fuels, we need smart ways to clean them up as much as we can. One group of researchers may have found a solution, by using a cheap powder to capture carbon dioxide emissions from power plants before they make it into the atmosphere.
The actual material is deceptively simple. The powder is basically a collection of tiny carbon spheres with pores in them. These pores are microscopic, only slightly larger than the carbon dioxide atoms they’re trying to collect. Carbon dioxide is attracted to the pores in these spheres, and once inside, it cannot escape. The powder can then be buried safely and forgotten.
Collecting carbon dioxide from coal and natural gas plants is nothing new, of course, as a handful of plants have been employing types of carbon capture technology for years. For instance, the WA Parish coal plant in Texas, one of the largest coal plants in the country, implemented such a system two years ago. This tech collects carbon dioxide from the plant’s exhaust and pumps it safely into the ground.
That’s a neat solution, but an expensive one. To allay some of the costs, the plant actually sells the carbon dioxide to a nearby oil field, where workers pumping CO2 into the ground to displace the oil and make it easier to extract. Such a system ends up with more oil produced, which doesn’t really solve the whole climate change thing.
This new carbon capture material, on the other hand, is extremely cheap and easy to produce. The invention has yet to be tested in an actual fossil fuel plant, and it’s likely that there’s still plenty of room for improvement. If it works out, though, plants might not need to make those economic compromises.
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics