A team of scientists from UNSW and RMIT have successfully closed the carbon loop by turning carbon dioxide back into coal.
The researchers have used liquid metals to turn carbon dioxide back into solid state coal at room temperature in a world-first breakthrough that could revolutionise carbon capture and storage.
Published in the journal Nature Communications, the research offers an alternative pathway for the safe and permanent removal of greenhouse gas from our atmosphere.
UNSW’s Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh said that the technology could significantly reduce carbon emissions created by industry and human activity.
“The most important thing is we can close the loop for CO2,” he said. “From coal to CO2 and back to coal again, at room temperature and at low consumed energy – this is something we could only dream of doing before, but no one knew how.”
RMIT researcher Dr Torben Daeneke explained how converting CO2 into a solid could be a more sustainable approach than other methods used to date such as capturing it in liquid form.
“While we can’t literally turn back time, turning carbon dioxide back into coal and burying it back in the ground is a bit like rewinding the emissions clock,” Dr Daeneke, an ARC DECRA Fellow, said.
“To date, CO2 has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially unviable.
“By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into solid carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scalable.
“While more research needs to be done, it’s a crucial first step to delivering solid storage of carbon.”