A new system can capture some of the environmentally-devastating carbon emissions given off by power plants — and recycle it to generate even more electricity.
By reusing exhaust in that way, power plants would be able to cut down on their carbon emissions while also generating more power, according to research published this month in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemical Engineering. While it's certainly no substitute for transitioning to zero-emission energy sources, the carbon capture tech could be an important step toward mitigating climate change.
Typically, carbon capture systems require so much energy that they're no longer cost-effective or feasible — defeating the purpose of trying to cut down on emissions in the first place.
The new system, however, can work at a lower temperature, making it a feasible option for power plants to pursue, according to a press release from the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
Operating at that low temperature, the carbon dioxide emissions can be reacted with hydrogen to form combustible fuel molecules like methane or gasoline. While it eventually hits a point of diminishing returns, that loop would enable a power plant to generate even more energy without releasing the carbon into the atmosphere.
Of course, that's not as good for the planet as not burning carbon in the first place. But the new tech is a positive sign for our ability to clean up our act.
READ MORE: The exhaust gas from a power plant can be recovered and used as a raw reaction material [Japan Science and Technology Agency]
More on carbon capture: Scientists: The Government Should Invest in Carbon Capture Now