Tuesday, September 1, 2015

"Soaking up carbon dioxide and turning it into valuable products"

There is a seemingly exciting story up on Science Daily, reporting a breakthrough which suggests we may be able to capture carbon and convert it into usable products:

A molecular system that holds great promise for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide has been modified so that it now also holds great promise as a catalyst for converting captured carbon dioxide into valuable chemical products. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have incorporated molecules of carbon dioxide reduction catalysts into the sponge-like crystals of covalent organic frameworks (COFs). This creates a molecular system that not only absorbs carbon dioxide, but also selectively reduces it to carbon monoxide, which serves as a primary building block for a wide range of chemical products including fuels, pharmaceuticals and plastics.

What is unclear to me is just how much carbon can be captured with this method and whether doing so makes any economic sense. If it is the case that this would capture a tiny fraction of atmospheric carbon—or even CO2 which is now escaping power plants—it probably does not mean much. Likewise, if it is extremely expensive compared with say, producing power by clean methods, there would be no reason for anyone to want to do it.

The story, unfortunately, does not address these questions.

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