Scientists Create Carbon Dioxide 'Sponge' to Soak up Greenhouse Gases


There may just be a new way to combat the increase in greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Scientists have created a sponge-like plastic that sops up carbon dioxide and could potentially be used to help cut CO2 emissions. "The key point is that this polymer is stable, it's cheap, and it absorbs CO2 extremely well," said Andrew Cooper, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It's geared toward function in a real-world environment. In a future landscape where fuel-cell technology is used, this absorbent could work toward zero-emission technology." The new material is actually part of an emerging technology called an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), which can convert fossil fuels into hydrogen gas. Hydrogen, in turn, holds great promise for use in fuel-cell cars. But the IGCC process yields a mixture of hydrogen and CO2 gas, which must be separated. The new material works best under the high pressures intrinsic to the IGCC process. It swells slightly when soaking up CO2 in the tight spaces between its molecules. When the pressure drops, the adsorbent deflates and releases the CO2, which can then be collected for storage. So how did the researchers make this new material? It's created by linking together many small carbon-based molecules into a network. The general idea to use this structure was inspired by polystyrene, a plastic used in Styrofoam and other packaging material. Polysterene can absorb small amounts of CO2 by the same swelling action. The findings could potentially be huge for the future of carbon capture and storage. Currently, scientists are working on a way to adapt this polymer for use in smokestacks and other exhaust streams, which could help trap gases before they even reach the atmosphere. This could play a role in the plan to cut CO2 plans by 30 percent by 2030. The findings were presented at the 248th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).



Show on Frontpage