Science

New device to remove carbon dioxide from the air

By Charlotte King

The battle to limit the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has progressed recently as engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered a “revolutionary” way to remove carbon dioxide straight out of the air.

Methods of removing carbon dioxide from the air have already been discovered, however, this new development is significant because MIT has been successful in removing the gas at any concentration level from the atmosphere. Previously, carbon dioxide could only be removed from a stream of gas when in high concentrations.

Moreover, the new method of removal is significantly less expensive and energy-intensive than older processes, MIT researchers say.

MIT researcher Sahag Voskian is credited for this discovery. The device he and his team have created is essentially “a large, specialised battery” which is able to absorb carbon dioxide from the air passing by its electrodes as the battery charges up.

The new device requires no “intermediate chemical processing steps” or the input of heat or pressure differences to work, unlike other methods of removing the greenhouse gas from the air.

Some are speculating that this advance in technology may be vital in reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Whilst this device is being piloted in the US, in September 2019, the UK’s offshore oil and gas industry announced that it intends to reduce its carbon emissions and hopes to make greater use of “carbon capture technologies” in an attempt to offset its carbon footprint.

What’s more, earlier this year, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee warned that heavy industries in the UK, such as the oil and gas industry, could be made to close down unless they and the government adopt carbon capture methods.

Currently, the MIT researchers who made the new discovery have set up a company called Verdox and they hope to commercialise the method. Over the next few years, they are expected to develop a pilot carbon capture plan, says MIT, and the system should be easily scaled up to allow one to draw more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

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