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How scuba diving is influencing carbon capture technology

04/02/2019
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With ambitious carbon reduction targets to be met, countries across the globe are researching and implementing a wide-variety of carbon capture and storage technologies. Now, a team of researchers are taking inspiration from scuba diving to create a novel form of carbon capture tech.
Researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory have created a form of carbon capture similar to that which helps scuba divers 'rebreathe' air.
Similar to the way scuba technology allows divers to ‘rebreathe’ used-up carbon dioxide whilst underwater, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a way to collect and store CO2 gas through a new technique: a special substance of organic chemicals called imino guanidines or ‘BIGs’ which bind to the bicarbonate in carbon dioxide-water solutions.

So how would this work at a power plant?

CO2 would be captured as it passes through the smokestacks and forced to bubble through a solution of BIGs and water. As it does so, organic compounds bind to the bicarbonate that’s formed in the CO2-water solution. This results in a crystallized product which can then be separated from the water, meaning it can be stored rather than emitted into the atmosphere. What’s more, the crystal can be used again to capture even more carbon dioxide at a later date.

Not only does this technique work really well at both capturing and storing CO2, but it is also more efficient- using about 24 percent less energy than more traditional forms of carbon capture.

Whilst there’s a big difference between proving something in a lab environment, and actually rolling it out to operational power stations, the team behind the research are confident it could work in practice. Although a lot of BIGs would be needed to outfit even a single smokestack scrubber, Radu Custelcean, one of the chemist’s behind the research, says that the BIGs material is reusable and relatively inexpensive at about $3 per kilogram.

So perhaps one day the technology that allows scuba divers to breathe underwater for long periods of time, could also help the rest of us breathe cleaner air…

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How scuba diving is influencing carbon capture technology - Time to read 2 min
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