Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

'Diamonds from the sky' approach turns CO2 into valuable products

19.08.2015

Finding a technology to shift carbon dioxide (CO2 ), the most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, from a climate change problem to a valuable commodity has long been a dream of many scientists and government officials. Now, a team of chemists says they have developed a technology to economically convert atmospheric CO2 directly into highly valued carbon nanofibers for industrial and consumer products.

The team will present brand-new research on this new CO2 capture and utilization technology at the 250th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS is the world's largest scientific society. The national meeting, which takes place here through Thursday, features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.


Researchers are generating carbon nanofibers (above) from CO2, removing a greenhouse gas from the air to make products.

Credit: Stuart Licht, Ph.D.

"We have found a way to use atmospheric CO2 to produce high-yield carbon nanofibers," says Stuart Licht, Ph.D., who leads a research team at George Washington University. "Such nanofibers are used to make strong carbon composites, such as those used in the Boeing Dreamliner, as well as in high-end sports equipment, wind turbine blades and a host of other products."

Previously, the researchers had made fertilizer and cement without emitting CO2 , which they reported. Now, the team, which includes postdoctoral fellow Jiawen Ren, Ph.D., and graduate student Jessica Stuart, says their research could shift CO2 from a global-warming problem to a feed stock for the manufacture of in-demand carbon nanofibers.

Licht calls his approach "diamonds from the sky." That refers to carbon being the material that diamonds are made of, and also hints at the high value of the products, such as the carbon nanofibers that can be made from atmospheric carbon and oxygen.

Because of its efficiency, this low-energy process can be run using only a few volts of electricity, sunlight and a whole lot of carbon dioxide. At its root, the system uses electrolytic syntheses to make the nanofibers. CO2 is broken down in a high-temperature electrolytic bath of molten carbonates at 1,380 degrees F (750 degrees C). Atmospheric air is added to an electrolytic cell. Once there, the CO2 dissolves when subjected to the heat and direct current through electrodes of nickel and steel. The carbon nanofibers build up on the steel electrode, where they can be removed, Licht says.

To power the syntheses, heat and electricity are produced through a hybrid and extremely efficient concentrating solar-energy system. The system focuses the sun's rays on a photovoltaic solar cell to generate electricity and on a second system to generate heat and thermal energy, which raises the temperature of the electrolytic cell.

Licht estimates electrical energy costs of this "solar thermal electrochemical process" to be around $1,000 per ton of carbon nanofiber product, which means the cost of running the system is hundreds of times less than the value of product output.

"We calculate that with a physical area less than 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert, our process could remove enough CO2 to decrease atmospheric levels to those of the pre-industrial revolution within 10 years," he says.

At this time, the system is experimental, and Licht's biggest challenge will be to ramp up the process and gain experience to make consistently sized nanofibers. "We are scaling up quickly," he adds, "and soon should be in range of making tens of grams of nanofibers an hour."

Licht explains that one advance the group has recently achieved is the ability to synthesize carbon fibers using even less energy than when the process was initially developed. "Carbon nanofiber growth can occur at less than 1 volt at 750 degrees C, which for example is much less than the 3-5 volts used in the 1,000 degree C industrial formation of aluminum," he says.

###

A press conference on this topic will be held Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time in the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. Reporters may check-in at Room 153B in person, or watch live on YouTube http://bit.ly/ACSLiveBoston. To ask questions online, sign in with a Google account.

The team's research has been funded primarily by the National Science Foundation.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 158,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Note to journalists: Please report that this research is being presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

Title

A new approach to carbon dioxide utilization: The carbon molten air battery

Abstract

As the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) increase in the Earth's atmosphere, the effects on climate change become increasingly apparent. As the demand to reduce our dependence on fossils fuels and lower our carbon emissions increases, a transition to renewable energy sources is necessary. Cost effective large-scale electrical energy storage must be established for renewable energy to become a sustainable option for the future. We've previously shown that carbon dioxide can be captured directly from the air at solar efficiencies as high as 50%, and that carbon dioxide associated with cement formation and the production of other commodities can be electrochemically avoided in the STEP process.1-3

The carbon molten air battery, presented by our group in late 2013, is attractive due to its scalability, location flexibility, and construction from readily available resources, providing a battery that can be useful for large scale applications, such as the storage of renewable electricity.4

Uncommonly, the carbon molten air battery can utilize carbon dioxide directly from the air:

(1) charging: CO2(g) -> C(solid) + O2(g)

(2) discharging: C(solid) + O2(g) -> CO2(g)

More specifically, in a molten carbonate electrolyte containing added oxide, such as lithium carbonate with lithium oxide, the 4 electron charging reaction eq. 1 approaches 100% faradic efficiency and can be described as the following two equations:

(1a) O2-(dissolved) + CO2(g) -> CO32-(molten)

(1b) CO32-(molten) -> C(solid) + O2(g) + O2-(dissolved)

Thus, powered by carbon formed directly from the CO2 in our earth's atmosphere, the carbon molten air battery is a viable system to provide large-scale energy storage.

1) S. Licht, "Efficient Solar-Driven Synthesis, Carbon Capture, and Desalinization, STEP: Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production of Fuels, Metals, Bleach" Advanced Materials, 47, 5592 (2011).

2) S. Licht, H. Wu, C. Hettige, B. Wang, J. Lau, J. Asercion, J. Stuart "STEP Cement: Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production of CaO without CO2 emission," Chemical Communications, 48, 6019 (2012).

3) S. Licht, B. Cui, B. Wang, F.-F. Li, J. Lau, S. Liu,"Ammonia synthesis by N2 and steam electrolysis in molten hydroxide suspensions of nanoscale Fe2O3," Science, 345, 637 (2014).

4) S. Licht, B. Cui, J. Stuart, B. Wang, J. Lau," "Molten Air Batteries - A new, highest energy class of rechargeable batteries, Energy & Environmental Science, 6, 3646 (2013).

Media Contact

617-954-3971 (Boston Press Center, Aug. 16-19)

Michael Bernstein
202-872-6042 (D.C. Office)
301-275-3221 (Cell)
m_bernstein@acs.org

Katie Cottingham, Ph.D.
301-775-8455 (Cell)
k_cottingham@acs.org

Michael Bernstein | EurekAlert!

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Spin current detection in quantum materials unlocks potential for alternative electronics
16.10.2017 | DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory

nachricht Missing atoms in a forgotten crystal bring luminescence
11.10.2017 | King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (KAUST)

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

Im Focus: New nanomaterial can extract hydrogen fuel from seawater

Hybrid material converts more sunlight and can weather seawater's harsh conditions

It's possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF...

Im Focus: Small collisions make big impact on Mercury's thin atmosphere

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft -- short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

Conference Week RRR2017 on Renewable Resources from Wet and Rewetted Peatlands

28.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A single photon reveals quantum entanglement of 16 million atoms

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The melting ice makes the sea around Greenland less saline

16.10.2017 | Earth Sciences

On the generation of solar spicules and Alfvenic waves

16.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>