Home and commercial heating is responsible for another 11,000,000,000 tons, together releasing 23,000,000,000 tons of CO2, all contributing to climate change.
But what if that greenhouse gas were harnessed and converted into electricity?
“Why not?” was the response of Bert Hamelers and colleagues from Wetsus, the Dutch center of excellence in sustainable water technology.
The team used a capacitive electrochemical cell:
“Built roughly like a battery, the cell has two electrodes—one surrounded by a membrane that allows hydrogen ions to flow in and out, and the other that does the same with bicarbonate ions, produced when carbon dioxide is bubbled through water.”
They harvest the chemical energy in CO2 emissions using a two-stage process:
First, by pumping water flushed with CO2 through the cell, they caused the hydrogen and carbonate ions to flow into their respective electrodes. The ion separation charged the cell and drove an electrical current.
Second, once the electrodes had reached their capacity to absorb ions, researchers pumped air-bubbled CO2 emissions from power plants, industrial smokestacks and residential heating worldwide through the cell, thus driving the ions out of the electrodes and back into the cell.
By repeating these two steps, the cell produces electrical power.
The potential for the new process could generate about 1570 terawatt-hours of power each year, about 400 times that produced by the Hoover Dam.
Like other hydroelectric power facilities, the Wetsus-produced electricity wouldn’t add to global carbon dioxide emissions.
Source: Smart Planet Daily, July 25, 2013 Science NOW, July 2013 Study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, July 25, 2013