Cleaning up CO2 emissions could be worth millions

July 19, 2017 by Lisa Zyga report
Schematic representation of a possible future C2CNT station that uses solar thermal power to convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into carbon nanotube wool. Credit: Johnson et al. ©2017 Elsevier Ltd

(Phys.org)—When most people hear the term "CO2 emissions," they probably think of several negative things: greenhouse gas, pollutant, climate change, political discord, economic burden. But a team of researchers led by Stuart Licht, a chemistry professor at George Washington University, has a vision for transforming CO2 emissions from a pollutant into a valuable resource—all while making a potentially large net profit.

In a new study published in Materials Today Energy, the researchers have shown that they can use CO2 and solar thermal energy to produce high yields of millimeter-length carbon nanotube (CNT) wool at a cost of just $660 per ton. The market value of long CNTs like these—which can be woven into textiles to make metals, cement replacements, and other materials—is currently $100,000-$400,000 per ton.

"We have introduced a new class of materials called 'Carbon Nanotube Wool,' which are the first CNTs that can be directly woven into a cloth, as they are of macroscopic length and are cheap to produce," Licht told Phys.org. "The sole reactant to produce the CNT wools is the carbon dioxide."

The researchers hope that the new technology, called C2CNT (CO2 to CNTs), will offer an indisputable economic incentive to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. They calculate that, if they were to set up solar thermal stations over an area equal to 4% of the Sahara Desert, they could reduce the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere back to pre-industrial levels in 10 years. They note that a more realistic implementation would be to set up stations on the oceans, where there is more available surface area.

The new study builds on the scientists' previous research going back to 2010, when they first proposed the idea of a solar thermal electrochemical process (STEP), in which solar energy is used to power an . This cell captures and breaks down, or electrolyzes, atmospheric CO2 into carbon or carbon monoxide and oxygen. The carbon byproducts can then be used to synthesize various products, such as methane, syngas, and ammonia. Although useful, these products are valued at around $100 per ton, and so are not nearly as valuable as CNTs.

Synthesizing CNTs from CO2 emissions has proved to be more challenging, with some earlier research suggesting that it may be impossible to produce CNTs by electrolysis using molten lithium carbonate, which is the compound used in the STEP process to nucleate the growth of the carbon products. However, in 2015, Licht and his team demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of high-yield, low-energy electrolytic splitting of CO2 into CNTs, which uses an alternative growth mechanism with molten lithium carbonate.

One drawback of that process, however, is that the CNTs it produces are nanometer-sized (less than 100 micrometers long), which is too short to be woven into textiles. The main result of the new study is that the CNTs are 100 times longer, which is achieved by replacing the copper or steel cathodes on the electrolytic cell with Monel, a type of nickel-copper alloy. By making this change and carefully tuning other parameters, the researchers produced CNTs with diameters of more than 1 micrometer and lengths of more than 1 millimeter—which, they point out, raises the question of whether the CNTs should actually be classified as "nanomaterials." In any case, the wool-like CNTs are long enough to be woven into textiles for various applications.

"Inexpensive, weavable CNT wools are preferred replacements for conventional steel and aluminum applications, due to the CNT wool's lightweight, strength-to-mass advantage," Licht said. "In addition to textiles, CNT wools serve as preferred additives to formulate blast- and fracture-resistant cement and ceramics. Other applications of stronger-than-steel, highly conductive CNT cloth are bullet-proof CNT suits and taser-proof suits."

Explore further: Researchers assess power plants that convert all of their CO2 emissions into carbon nanotubes

More information: Marcus Johnson et al. "Carbon nanotube wools made directly from CO2 by molten electrolysis: Value driven pathways to carbon dioxide greenhouse gas mitigation." Materials Today Energy. DOI: 10.1016/j.mtener.2017.07.0032468-6069

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the_bohemian_girl
1.7 / 5 (12) Jul 19, 2017
Why do I want to invest in a system that cleans up my neighbor's messy footprint? I see these things as tools that build a bigger government when I want a smaller one. If science reports can provide us with the necessary comparisons of which company is producing products that harm the environment, then consumers can decide whether they want to invest in purchasing that product or possibly boycott the product until the company shows they've reduced emissions. Give us facts about specific emission producers and the people will react.
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2017
Same with lead in paint and fuel - after enough people get brain damage consumers will ask for no lead in the products. Except a few who don't care
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (7) Jul 19, 2017
If science reports can provide us with the necessary comparisons of which company is producing products that harm the environment, then consumers can decide whether they want to invest in purchasing that product or possibly boycott the product until the company shows they've reduced emissions. Give us facts about specific emission producers and the people will react
@the_bohemian_girl
you mean like this?
https://ghgdata.e.../main.do

https://www.epa.g...nd-sinks

https://www.epa.gov/airmarkets

https://www.iea.o...ions.pdf

they've been doing this for a while now

problem is, there is a concerted political/oil/gas/big business effort to make the science threatening to the public, hence the ignorance of most of the science in the general public
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (9) Jul 19, 2017
the_bohemian_girl

Then don't buy or use any of the products that come from this.

Anything notable takes more than one person to do, be a part of something for the common good or get out of the way
MR166
5 / 5 (3) Jul 19, 2017
If they can turn sunlight and Co2 into a useful product at a profit more power to them. We need more commercial processes that can run when the sun shines and shut down when it does not.
dnatwork
5 / 5 (9) Jul 19, 2017
Why do I want to invest in a system that cleans up my neighbor's messy footprint? I see these things as tools that build a bigger government when I want a smaller one.


No one asked you to invest, and there was no mention of government involvement, and how on earth do your preferences on size of government have any relation to patentable, profit-producing research (that just happens to turn waste into useful products)?
unrealone1
1.4 / 5 (9) Jul 19, 2017
Climate Change is over
A new peer-reviewed study by scientists and a statistician claims to reveal that "nearly all" of the warming shown in current temperature datasets from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Met Office in the United Kingdom are the result of adjustments made to the datasets after temperatures were recorded, calling into question just how much warming is real and how much is pure fantasy.
http://www.thebla...warming/
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (11) Jul 19, 2017
Unrealone

Then why are the oceans rising? Why are glaciers that have been stable for thousands of years melting? Why are temperature records are being broken in a 10-1 margin in favor of record hot days?

China, India, Japan, and even Exxon Mobil have their own climate change research.

Why is Russia investing billions into military presence in the arctic? Why do we have a navigable northwest passage now?

Why are reefs dying all over the world? Why are ocean temperatures rising?
spamcaptor
5 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2017
Aren't CNTs carcinogenic? Sounds like a new asbestos to me.
Lex Talonis
not rated yet Jul 19, 2017
Mmmmmm 1mm lengths - can be woven..... Mmmmmmmmm
arcmetal
5 / 5 (8) Jul 19, 2017
@unrealone1

Yes, I started reading through some of that paper, written by three members of the Cato institute. A place created by Charles Koch. ... I would not say that is science by any possible means of measure.
aksdad
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 20, 2017
When I hear the term "CO2 emissions" I think essential nutrient for plants, greening of the earth, boon to agriculture and mankind, inexpensive energy lifting humans out of poverty and subsistence living. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (9) Jul 20, 2017
When I hear the term "CO2 emissions" I think essential nutrient for plants, greening of the earth, boon to agriculture and mankind, inexpensive energy lifting humans out of poverty and subsistence living. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy.

You're also a very stupid guy (or a "have-drunk-half-the-glass-of-very-strong-liqour -and-now-feel-super-smart" kinda guy)
CO2 is not the only thing that determines plant growth.

But I guess you think plants grow on supermarket shelves, right?
arcmetal
4 / 5 (4) Jul 20, 2017
... inexpensive energy lifting humans out of poverty and subsistence living. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy.

The unnecessary burning of fossil fuels for energy has been a scam from the start.
Benni
1.8 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2017
When I hear the term "CO2 emissions" I think essential nutrient for plants, greening of the earth, boon to agriculture and mankind, inexpensive energy lifting humans out of poverty and subsistence living. But I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy.


For sure they'd better monitor very carefully how much CO2 they suck out of the atmosphere or they'll kill a lot of plant life we depend on as a food source.

You're also a very stupid guy (or a "have-drunk-half-the-glass-of-very-strong-liqour -and-now-feel-super-smart" kinda guy)
CO2 is not the only thing that determines plant growth.
You foulmouthed name calling dunce, your intellectual capacity doesn't even reach the level of 1st semester chemistry when you fail to comprehend that "plant growth" STARTS with a MINIMUM level of CO2 at ground level in the atmosphere, all other ingredients you allude to LAG the LEADING minimum CO2 requirement or breaking of molecular bonds within the plant structure will not occur.

the_bohemian_girl
1 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2017


"No one asked you to invest, and there was no mention of government involvement, and how on earth do your preferences on size of government have any relation to patentable, profit-producing research (that just happens to turn waste into useful products)?"

Dnatwork, when a private company makes a profit on this professor's "vision" without taxpayer assistance, let me know. btw, my taxes already assist universities in the form of government grants; so yes I'm already invested more than I'd like to be.
dnatwork
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2017


"No one asked you to invest, ... no ... government involvement,.. patentable, profit-producing research ..."

Dnatwork, when a private company makes a profit on this professor's "vision" without taxpayer assistance, let me know. btw, my taxes already assist universities in the form of government grants; so yes I'm already invested more than I'd like to be.


I happen to work at a university, in finance. Almost all of the research produced by universities is taken by private industry and turned into profits that do not come back to the university, except rarely when patents are actually upheld and royalties are lawfully paid. That generally just covers the cost of litigation and the costs of the research itself that were not recovered originally. Ever heard of Qualcomm? Founded with IP taken from UCSD without payment. Research grants exist because Wall Street profits by selling you cancer meds and Facebook and clean water, not because universities are on the dole.
snoosebaum
5 / 5 (1) Jul 20, 2017
hey maybe it will work out as well as this , solar.

https://thepointm...estions/
MR166
1 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017
Most green energy pundits say that solar panels are supposed to last more than 20 years. I have not seen any data that proves this to be true. After 20 years out in the sun, wind, dust and temperature extremes I wonder how much the rated output falls. Wind turbines were/are prone to catastrophic transmission failures.
arcmetal
5 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017
Most green energy pundits say that solar panels are supposed to last more than 20 years. I have not seen any data that proves this to be true. After 20 years out in the sun, wind, dust and temperature extremes I wonder how much the rated output falls. Wind turbines were/are prone to catastrophic transmission failures.

I suppose then that oil refineries, or coal mines never explode and are always in perfect working order?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Jul 20, 2017
After 20 years out in the sun, wind, dust and temperature extremes I wonder how much the rated output falls.

From first hand experience: The panel we put up on my dads roof after 13 years (without any kind of maintenance) average output is down by 5-8% (accounting for yearly variability)...pretty much in line with a NREL study from 2012 that finds 0.3% to 0.8% yearly degradation depending on brand
http://www.nrel.g...1664.pdf

You can easily expect solar panels to hold up 25-30 years and still supply power (worst case scenario of 0.8% degradation: panels will still be producing almost 80% of their nominal output after 30 years..)

Wind turbines have also been around for quite some time now, and real world data (not simulations) show that most will live to see 25 or more years of service
http://www3.imper...-9-18-49
MR166
5 / 5 (2) Jul 20, 2017
Thanks for the real life info Anti.
Whydening Gyre
4.7 / 5 (3) Jul 20, 2017
This article makes me wonder...
If they pulled co2 directly from the ocean (a LOT of it there, I'm bettin'), would it improve the oceans ability to absorb it from other sources...?
(like, the atmosphere, fer instance...)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Jul 21, 2017
If they pulled co2 directly from the ocean (a LOT of it there, I'm bettin'), would it improve the oceans ability to absorb it from other sources...?

Um ..yeah...but if you pull it out of the air then the ocean doesn't need to absorb it. Direct route is better.
MarsBars
5 / 5 (4) Jul 21, 2017
... calling into question just how much warming is real and how much is pure fantasy.
http://www.thebla...warming/

unrealone - you cite The Blaze, a network founded by Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News. Pardon me for giving it absolutely no credence whatsoever.
MR166
1 / 5 (2) Jul 21, 2017
Dismissing a news story based solely on it's publisher and not it's content leads to a very slanted view. I personally am not a big fan of the NYT, CNN and NPR reporting but I do try to evaluate their claims in an unbiased ,as to source, manner.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (5) Jul 21, 2017
... calling into question just how much warming is real and how much is pure fantasy.
http://www.thebla...warming/


unrealone - you cite The Blaze, a network founded by Glenn Beck, formerly of Fox News. Pardon me for giving it absolutely no credence whatsoever.


That seems to be a running theme amongst science deniers (and particularly climate deniers). If they can't even tell a solid source from a random blog entry then it's pretty pointless to engage them in conversation. They'll believe a pastor/snake-oil salesman/con-man as readily as anything as long as it falls in line with their prejudices.

There's no real way to make any headway in arguments unless they get some education and information savvy because they cannot tell fact from fiction.
greenonions1
5 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2017
MR
Most green energy pundits say that solar panels are supposed to last more than 20 years. I have not seen any data that proves this to be true.
http://www.engine...nel.aspx
Whydening Gyre
4 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2017
If they pulled co2 directly from the ocean (a LOT of it there, I'm bettin'), would it improve the oceans ability to absorb it from other sources...?

Um ..yeah...but if you pull it out of the air then the ocean doesn't need to absorb it. Direct route is better.

Yeah, but...
if the carbon nanotube product is your goal, the co2 already IN the ocean would be a much more "direct" route.
Faster, cheaper and with the side benefit of of improving the absorption capacity of the ocean...
Sometimes, the direct route isn't the BEST route...
Zzzzzzzz
5 / 5 (4) Jul 22, 2017


"No one asked you to invest, and there was no mention of government involvement, and how on earth do your preferences on size of government have any relation to patentable, profit-producing research (that just happens to turn waste into useful products)?"

Dnatwork, when a private company makes a profit on this professor's "vision" without taxpayer assistance, let me know. btw, my taxes already assist universities in the form of government grants; so yes I'm already invested more than I'd like to be.

In that case your course of action is quite simple . Stop bringing in income, and divest yourself of all things of value. In other words, stop paying taxes or investing in anything. You might find you like life outside human society. Perhaps you could find a nice cave somewhere to squat in, and really start enjoying life.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (3) Jul 22, 2017
Dismissing a news story based solely on it's publisher and not it's content leads to a very slanted view
@MR
1- it's an article, not science. that in itself is reason enough to dismiss it as it's simply the opinion of the author supported by whatever evidence said author chooses to provide or ignore

2- from theblaze itself
TheBlaze Inc. owns and operates a news, information, and opinion website. The company focuses on politics, business, faith, and technology
so it's a site designed to promote political, faith and other biased beliefs by design

3- if there isn't use of the scientific method to remove bias while producing repeatable evidence based knowledge, it's equivalent to opinion and belief, especially when it's company overview clearly states its biases

therefore it's imperative to dismiss the article as irrelevant and biased until it can meet the exact same requirements of the science published in reputable peer reviewed journals

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