Producing solid carbon from thin air


Spotted: As the world attempts to move to carbon neutrality, it will be essential for industry to close its carbon cycles. One way of achieving this is to convert CO2 from the atmosphere into carbon for use in industry, instead of extracting it from fossil fuels. Now, researchers at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technologie (KIT) have developed a process to do just that.

In the research project, dubbed NECOC (NEgative CarbOn Dioxide to Carbon), the team constructed a container-sized test facility, which removed two kilogrammes of CO2 from the ambient air in one day, turning it into 0.5 kilogrammes of solid carbon.

In the process developed by the researchers, an absorber first separates the CO2 from the ambient air (a technology called Direct Air Capture). Next, the CO2 is moved to a reactor, where it reacts with sustainably produced hydrogen and is converted into methane and water. A pyrolysis reaction splits the methane to release the hydrogen, which can be returned to the reactor. The remaining carbon floats and can be removed mechanically for use in industry.

Changing process parameters like the temperature level allows the production of different carbon modifications like graphite, carbon black, or even graphene. Research lead Dr. Benjamin Dietrich points out that, “We have to find completely new technological solutions if we want to keep up industrial production. This includes the industrial carbon supply.”

It seems that carbon is on everyone’s mind, and for good reason – if the world is going to reach the target of holding global warming to the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, we need to develop ways to remove and permanently store already emitted CO2. Some recent innovations that Springwise has spotted include a carbon negative Portland cement, and a process that transforms captured CO2 into biocarbons and heat.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

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