Trapping carbon dioxide in an icy age
A fish on the ocean floor off California gazes at a sight no human has seen first-hand: a modified Raman spectrometer gathering data on a carbon dioxide sample. Jill Pasteris, Ph.D., Washington University professor of earth and planetary sciences, heads a Washington University group collaborating with researchers at the Monterey Bay Area Research Institute (MBARI) to determine the feasibility of storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide on the ocean floor. The Raman spectrometer is the first-ever deployed on the ocean floor.
Courtesy of Monterey Bay Area Research Institute
In collaboration with oceanographers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), a team of geologists at Washington University in St. Louis is using a rare instrument on the ocean floor just west of California. One of their earliest projects was to see if its possible to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it on the ocean floor. The research is supported by the Department of Energy.
The geologists, headed by Jill Pasteris, Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences, and their MBARI colleagues are the first to deploy a Raman spectrometer on the ocean floor. The instrument combines a portable focusing lens with a potent laser to examine minerals, gases and liquids - even seawater itself. Pasteris group and their MBARI colleagues are using Raman spectroscopy to see what carbon dioxide in either a pure liquid or a complex solid phase will do on the sea floor. They also are examining the feasibility of synthetically trapping carbon dioxide in solids called clathrate hydrates, ice-like solids that form a cage around gas molecules, such as methane, trapping them and storing them. Such solids occur naturally on the ocean floor. The hope is that someday carbon dioxide can be trapped in a similar way.
Tony Fitzpatrick | WUSTL
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