Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne have developed technology that can convert carbon dioxide gas into particles of what is essentially pure soot ‘coal’.
Researchers come up with a long list of ways carbon, from growing and burying biomass to pumping the gas into reservoirs underground to speeding up the chemical reactions that can turn CO2 into a less volatile material.
To convert CO2,” the researchers designed a liquid metal catalyst with specific surface properties that made it extremely efficient at conducting electricity while chemically activating the surface.
The carbon dioxide is dissolved in a beaker filled with an electrolyte liquid and a small amount of the liquid metal, which is then charged with an electrical current.
Earlier attempts to convert CO2 into solid carbon have involved using very high temperatures, which is not possible when done at an industrial scale. But in this new process, CO2 can be converted to coal at room temperature making it an applicable technology.
Another advantage of this process is that the carbon produced can be used as electrodes and can also be used to make synthetic industrial fuel.
“A side benefit of the process is that the carbon can hold an electrical charge, becoming a supercapacitor, so it could potentially be used as a component in future vehicles,” said Dr Dorna Esrafilzadeh, a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fellow in RMIT’s School of Engineering, and lead in this project.