What better way to take the antagonistic connotation out of the atmosphere’s growing CO2 concentration than by converting it into a manufacturing material? It sounds like good business, but perhaps good science is more than sufficient to crack a smile, for now.
CO2 IS CONVERTIBLE TO ADVANCED CARBON NANOFIBERS?
Scientists working in the States have successfully converted carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into carbon nanofibers. By running a figurative handful of electric volts through a vat of molten salt, a solar-powered system absorbs CO2, and nanofibers slowly collect at one of its electrodes.
This system can produce 10 grams per hour.
CO2 CONVERSION APPLICATIONS PROMISED TO BROADEN
Even better, the scientific team behind this new technology believes the process can be scaled up to a take in a quantity of carbon dioxide emissions to make a significant dent in the role CO2 plays in global climate change. However, other scientists are hesitant to agree.
But, if this were true, it would be a much cheaper method for making carbon nanofibers than we are currently capable of.
“Until now, carbon nanofibers have been too expensive for many applications,” commented Professor Stuart Licht of George Washington University while speaking at the autumn meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.
Carbon nanofibers are used in electronic components and batteries, but if the cost of production were brought down, they would be used more ubiquitously, and this would improve things like tough yet lightweight carbon composites used in aircraft and cars.
LARGE-SCALE CO2 PRODUCTION METHOD
Whether this is feasible in the near future rests on the question of the “one-pot” reaction, demonstrated by Professor Licht and crew. Interest in this process is peaking because of the wide spectrum of applications awaiting a more successful method of procurement.
Although more promises have been made than met, Professor Licht has utmost confidence in his design. “It scales up very easily – the entire process is quite low energy,” and this system could construct “a reasonable path to bring down CO2 levels in the atmosphere.”
Licht intends to adapt reactors of megalithic scale, and this is acquiring attention abroad. Dr. Katy Armstrong, chemical engineer at the University of Sheffield, claims the process is “promising and very interesting on a lab scale,” but that Licht’s grandiose plans may be just that – grandiose plans.
“As they are capturing CO2 from the air, the process will need to deal with huge volumes of gas to collect the required amount of carbon, which could increase process costs when scaled up,” Armstrong conveyed to the BBC.
LICHT’S CO2 PROCESS LAUDABLE IN ITS OWN RIGHT
A chemical engineer and clean energy researcher at Imperial College London named Dr. Paul Fennell said that “[i]f they can make carbon nanofibers, that is a laudable aim and they’re a worthwhile product to have.
“But if your idea is to take CO2 out of the atmosphere and produce so many carbon nanofibers that you make a difference to climate change – I’d be extremely surprised if you could do that.”
However, Professor Licht is undaunted by the scientific communities doubts; “[t]here aren’t any catches; there’s a necessity to work together, to test this on a larger scale, to apply some societal resources to do that.”
Whatever the ultimate scale of this process’ application turns out to be, many chemists are content to applaud Professor Licht’s team’s success at having even produced nanofibers from atmospheric carbon. And we should, too.