When vehicles and power plants burn fossil fuels, they release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — trapping energy from the Sun and warming the planet.
Some researchers have suggested that the world could fight climate change by investing in machines that capture carbon from the air. A practical solution remains years away, but researchers in South Korea and Georgia now say they’ve devised a system that captures atmospheric carbon in water — and uses the reaction to generate electricity and hydrogen.
The researchers at Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST) and the Georgia Institute of Technology drew inspiration from the ocean, which absorbs a large amount of carbon from the atmosphere.
As water takes on carbon, it becomes more acidic. The researchers built a device that uses that phenomenon to generate electricity, similarly to a battery. The system also produces hydrogen, which the researchers suggest could serve as a fuel.
The efficiency of the new system isn’t clear, and it currently only works for 1,000 hours. But it’s a rare bit of positivity amidst the many bleak predictions for the future of energy and the environment.
“Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration technologies have recently received a great deal of attention for providing a pathway in dealing with global climate change,” UNIST researcher Guntae Kim said in a press release. “Our new system has solved this problem with [a] CO2 dissolution mechanism.”
READ MORE: Scientists Turn Carbon Emissions Into Usable Energy [Phys.org]
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