A new liquid metal electrolysis method can convert CO2 gas into coal-like solid flakes at room temperature. The carbon dioxide is dissolved and placed in a beaker filled with an electrolyte liquid and liquid metal. Charged with electrical current, it slowly converts into solid flakes of a coal-like substance.
Until now, extremely high temperatures were necessary to convert carbon dioxide into a solid substance. This made it very inefficient to use commercially. According to the research team from the RMIT University in Melbourne, the new method is relatively inexpensive, and can be done at room temperature with commonplace lab equipment.
Previous carbon capture techniques typically compressed the gas into a liquid form which is then injected deep underground. There it would interact with basalt rocks and solidify into a carbonate mineral. As only an upper layer of the liquid solidifies, there were concerns that the buried gas could leak in the future. The new method to solidify the gas could provide a way to store it safely underground.
According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it is necessary to remove existing emission from the atmosphere in addition to the reduction of any greenhouse gas emissions. Is this new procedure going to be used as an excuse by industries with high CO2 emission levels for not reducing CO2 emissions but rather invest in the technology and provide land to store it?
As a by-product of the process, synthetic fuel is produced which could also be of industrial value and used as feedstock, the research team suggests. Holding electrical charge, the carbon could become ‘a supercapacitor and could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles’, says Dorna Esrafilzadeh, a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow.
What are the environmental implications of the use of this fuel?