This Powder Could Cheaply Capture Carbon Pollution From Power Plants
By Marlene Cimons
A recent UN report found that to prevent catastrophic climate change, humans will not only need to drastically cut emissions in just a few short years. People will also need to generate power from wind and solar, and they will need to upgrade remaining gas- and coal-fired power plants with carbon capture technology—a means of trapping carbon pollution from power plants and storing it underground. But carbon capture has its drawbacks. The equipment is costly and the process requires a lot of energy.
Scientist Zhongwei Chen has developed an alternative, one that could make it more affordable for coal- and gas-fired power plants to clean up their mess.
Chen, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Waterloo, created a powder that can soak up carbon dioxide before it is expelled into the air, which he said is vastly more efficient than conventional carbon capture methods. He said it can be used at power plants, factories and other facilities that burn coal. "This technology is designed to be a real solution to a real problem the world is facing right now," Chen said. "If this technology can help us do better while we find and adopt new, reliable energy sources, that's positive." His study describing the technique appears in the journal Carbon.
Carbon dioxide molecules stick to the surface of carbon when they come in contact with it, a process known as "adsorption," making carbon an excellent material for CO2 capture. The researchers, who collaborated with colleagues at several universities in China, enhanced adsorption by manipulating the size and concentration of pores in the carbon powder. The carbon spheres that make up the powder have many, many pores and the vast majority of them are less than one-millionth of a meter in diameter.
Like other carbon capture methods, the CO2-saturated powder still would need to be buried underground to ensure the carbon dioxide is not released into the atmosphere. But the powder represents a significant breakthrough. While there have been earlier experiments to try to develop "pore-forming" carbon dioxide agents, Chen calls the powder made by his team "the first viable attempt." With previous efforts, the mixtures were corrosive and not absorbent enough, he said.
Carbon dioxide molecules are gathered by the carbon spheres that make up Chen's powder. Carbon
"Our powder is efficient because it has pores that are two to three times larger than a carbon dioxide molecule," Chen said. "By ensuring we have the right number of pores in the right concentration, the powder is able to effectively scoop up the carbon from emissions as it passes through." The powder can be used without needing to install additional equipment. And the raw materials—sugar, molasses, rice husk, straws or agar—are renewable, abundant and cheap, especially when compared to existing technologies.
"One of the most important aspects of this discovery is that it's not expensive," said Chen, who holds a Tier 1 Canada research chair in advanced materials for clean energy, an appointment that recognizes academics who are outstanding in their field. "It can be employed by developed and developing nations alike. Since cost is not a barrier to taking action, we have the ability to see significant change in a very short time. There are not a lot of other solutions out there we can say that about."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.
During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.
What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.
By Matthew Savoca
Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.
Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.
"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"
Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.
The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.
Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.
Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.
By Andrea Germanos
Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.
By Patrick Rogers
If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.