Harvesting electricity from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide

Jul 23, 2013

A new method for producing electricity from carbon dioxide could be the start of a classic trash-to-treasure story for the troublesome greenhouse gas, scientists are reporting. Described in an article in ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the method uses CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks as the raw material for making electricity.

Bert Hamelers, Ph.D., and colleagues explain that electric power-generating stations worldwide release about 12 billion tons of CO2 annually from combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Home and commercial heating produces another 11 billion tons. Smokestack gas from a typical coal-fired plant contains about 10 percent CO2, which not only goes to waste, but is a key contributor to global warming. Hamelers' team sought a way to change that trash into a treasure.

They describe technology that would react the CO2 with water or other liquids and, with further processing, produce a flow of electrons that make up electric current. It could produce about 1,570 kilowatts of additional electricity annually if used to harvest CO2 from power plants, industry and residences. That's about 400 times the annual electrical output of the Hoover Dam. Like that dam and other hydroelectric power facilities, that massive additional amount of would be produced without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, Hamelers pointed out.

Explore further: Fish will have to find new habitats or perish if global warming is left unchecked

More information: DOI: 10.1021/ez4000059

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User comments : 13

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4.3 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2013
"It could produce about 1,570 kilowatts of additional electricity annually if used to harvest CO2 from power plants, industry and residences. That's about 400 times the annual electrical output of the Hoover Dam."
1570 kilowatts?? I use more than that in a month!...
Considering the average annual output of the Hoover Dam is 4.2 TWh/year, 400 times that is 1680 TWh/year: somebody forgot quite a few zeroes.

1.7 / 5 (12) Jul 23, 2013
"if used to harvest CO2 from power plants, industry and residences."

Besides the exponent of KW figure being wrong, it is impractical to extend the usage to private residences. It looks like they tried to make the figure as large as possible for the press release.

BTW CO2 is a very stable bond and I really doubt it could supply any meaningful energy.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 23, 2013
"somebody forgot quite a few zeroes."

That level of error is staggering - 1,570 kilowatts of power annually - jumped off the page at me instantly. Not only is it orders of magnitude off, but it is the wrong kind of units - they should be talking Kilowatt Hours, or even TWh. It does make you wonder where the editors are. None of the links would take you to any sites that would give you more information either.
1.8 / 5 (11) Jul 23, 2013
1.7 / 5 (12) Jul 23, 2013
"The highest average power density obtained with a MEA solution as the electrolyte was 4.5 mW/m2,"

Again, pollyanna green BS!!!! It takes an electrode 200 m2 to generate ONE watt of power.

This is nothing more than grant bait.
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 23, 2013
Supplementary info: http://pubs.acs.o..._001.pdf

Their phrase " alternately flows between these selective porous electrodes" refers to the use of two digitally programmed peristaltic pumps to fill an electrolytic cell with normal water and carbonated water.
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 23, 2013
To boost their output by 16X they switch from water, which merely suffers a bit of acidification when carbonated, to water infused with the gas ethyl amine, an expensive reagent that like most primary amines is known to rapidly and quite irreversibly react with CO2 to form a covalently bonded carbamate.
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 23, 2013
Perhaps Coca Cola could use this cell to create carbonated water and produce enough electricity to light a cute picture of a polar bear with a high efficiency LED. Very very Green.
1 / 5 (3) Jul 24, 2013
"Thou shalt not create nor destroy energy."
Has the law of entrophy been suspended or have I missed the point completely?
If this were a nuclear process with transmutation, that might provide the energy.
Perhaps the carbon is fused with hydrogen to produce nitrogen, releasing the said high grade energy?
But then again- maybe not.
Oh. And the unit of energy that the author was grasping for is the joule. Meggajoules, terrajoules etc.
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 24, 2013
BTW CO2 is a very stable bond and I really doubt it could supply any meaningful energy.

It is the END product of an energy harvesting process, after all. So there isn't much energy left in a CO2 molecule to get any more out of it.

They describe technology that would react the CO2 with water or other liquids and, with further processing,

I'd be rather surprised if after all that you'd
a) get more energy out of it than you put in in the 'further processing' steps.
b) not end up with some REALLY nasty end products
1 / 5 (6) Jul 24, 2013
It wasn't an error: 1.7 Megawatts (assuming, per hr) is a huge power plant (more than my entire province uses). But, spread across the globe (to catch the CO2 where its being made) is silly -- there is 6-700 Billion watts being radiated from human bodies too. And, I'll bet you could get 3 Megawatts (wild guess) from butterflies once the engineers finish with the harness kit we'll need.

Silly all the same tho'.
3 / 5 (2) Jul 24, 2013
How about carbonizing water trapped in a large bottle: just shake the bottle and pop the cap and have the foam shoot out and turn a turbine! ;o)
1.6 / 5 (8) Jul 24, 2013
Correction: they do use a primary (unbranched single organic chain) amine, the water soluble liquid ethanolamine, not the gas ethyl amine, nor triethanolamine which doesn't readily react with CO2.

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