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Scientists turn carbon emissions into usable energy

22/01/2019
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As governments across the globe strive to meet ambitious carbon emissions targets, increasing efforts are being ploughed into initiatives to capture carbon from the atmosphere. Now, a team of scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) have created a system that not only captures carbon, but converts it into a form of usable energy…
An illustration of the Hybrid Na-CO2 system and its reaction mechanism.
(An illustration of the Hybrid Na-CO2 system and its reaction mechanism. Image via UNIST).

Led by Professor Guntae Kim, the team have created the Hybrid Na-CO2 system that can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen through efficient CO2 conversion.

The system is effectively a fuel cell, which consists of a sodium metal anode submerged in an organic electrolyte, a separation membrane consisting of a sodium super ionic conductor (NASICON) ceramic, and a catalytic cathode in an aqueous electrolyte (such as distilled water or seawater). By injecting carbon monoxide into the water, the fuel cell triggers a reaction which produces both hydrogen and an electrical current- whilst also eliminating the CO2.

“This hybrid Na-CO2 cell, which adopts efficient CCUS (Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Sequestration) technologies, not only utilises CO2 as the resource for generating electrical energy but also produces the clean energy source, hydrogen,” says Jeongwon Kim, the co-first author for the research.

Professor Kim sees his new technology as presenting an ideal CCUS solution to the world’s climbing carbon emissions, saying:

“Carbon capture, utilisation, and sequestration (CCUS) technologies have recently received a great deal of attention for providing a pathway in dealing with global climate change. The key to that technology is the easy conversion of chemically stable CO2 molecules to other materials. Our new system has solved this problem with our CO2 dissolution mechanism”.

The team behind the new fuel cell technology will now undertake more detailed research to create an even more effective and scalable design.

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Scientists turn carbon emissions into usable energy - Time to read 2 min
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