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Copper-powered carbon sequestration

Sun, 17th Jan 2010

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Weíve heard about carbon sequestration, deep beneath the Earth, but now hereís another way of dealing with the CO2 problem - with copper.

Part of the reason that CO2 is a problem is that itís quite tricky to extract it from the air as itís quite a stable molecule, at least compared with oxygen. And so most of the time gaseous oxygen will bond to a metal, for example, before carbon dioxide does.

But this new copper complex, reported in the journal Science this week, can ignore boring old O2 and go straight for CO2.

A team of researchers, led by Elisabeth Bouwman at the Leiden Institute of Chemistry, say that typically, the problem with oxygen is that it will gain an electron more readily than CO2. CoppersBut this copper complex will happily donate electrons to carbon dioxide instead.

So, to extract CO2 from the air, they put this copper complex into solution. Atmospheric CO2 to which itís exposed is then absorbed. Next, to remove the captured carbon, they just added a lithium salt solution, apply a low voltage - 0.03V - across it, and the carbon precipitates as an organic compound.

As a bonus, this by-product can be converted into useful compounds which can be used in cleaning products and things like wood preservation.

But whatís really useful is that the copper complex can be cleaned at the end of the reaction and re-used. The researchers report that they managed to do this six times in seven hours.

Also, compared with other methods of sequestration, itís actually quite cheap although there is a possibility that accessible copper ores might run dry not too far into the future!



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An interesting article. Here's a bit more detail from the Nature website.

From what I've read this is really a way to reuse CO2, rather than to lock it away almost indefinitely (as with other sequestration methods).

I did wonder whether forming oxalate salts from the output of the process would allow further CO2 to be locked up permanently, but I have no idea how much extra energy this would require.

Another process for reusing unwanted CO2 (in this case from smoke stacks, etc) caught my attention a month ago:

Looking forward to the webcast... peppercorn, Mon, 18th Jan 2010

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