A Powder That Could Cheaply Capture Power Plants Carbon Pollution

In order to arrest the pace of climate change we need to upgrade the 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.

Chemical engineer 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 at the University of Waterloo, created a powder that can soak up carbon dioxide before it is expelled into the air, which he says is vastly more efficient than conventional carbon capture methods.

The powder itself is made of carbon spheres that have many, many pores onto which carbon dioxide molecules can stick, 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 vast majority of them are less than one-millionth of a meter in diameter.

Like with 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.

“This technology is designed to be a real solution to a real problem the world is facing right now.”

Reference- Popular Science, Journal-Carbon