2. Pulling CO2 from the air
Some carbon emissions will inevitably still wind up in the atmosphere. Oana Luca, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, is designing a new tool to capture CO2 from the air and use it to produce fuels and cement.
Some common methods of carbon capture use chemical solutions to absorb CO2 gas. During the process, CO2 binds to molecules in the solution. Those bonds are so tight, however, that chemists and engineers need to heat the solution to really high temperatures to release the trapped CO2 and convert it into useful materials. The approach is energy-intensive.
To address the problem, Luca and her team have designed molecules that they can activate with electricity to attract CO2. Scientists can then release the CO2 by simply giving the molecules another zap.
“I think about our work as enabling a battery-like device,” Luca said. “In the charge cycle, the device loads up with CO2, and in the discharge step, it releases CO2.”
Luca said that the team could also power this process using a renewable power source like solar, making the process even more sustainable.
She envisions that in the future, scientists could place these devices on top of buildings in cities where they would absorb CO2 emissions from sources like cars and trucks. Read more about Luca’s carbon capturing research.
Image: Smoke rising from chimneys of a paper mill in Sweden. (Credit: Daniel Moqvist/Unsplash)