Cornell Research on Capturing Carbon to Generate Electricity

Architectures of metal/CO2 electrochemical cells as capture systems. (A) Secondary metal/CO2 electrochemical cell where CO2 is concentrated by recharging. (B) Primary metal/CO2 electrochemical cell where captured CO2 is concentrated or converted to Cn (n ≥ 2) valuable products. Image and caption from Science Advances, W.I. Al Sadat and L.A. Archer

Several of our contributors have a Cornell background, and this new technology that can convert carbon dioxide to electricity through a simple series of chemical reactions is the product of a couple researchers at the School of Chemistry and Biomolecular Engineers. Prachi Patel reports for Conservation Magazine:

A new technology offers a one-two punch against carbon pollution. Researchers have made an aluminum-based battery cell that captures carbon dioxide and simultaneously generates a large amount of electricity. That means a way to mitigate carbon emissions while meeting increasing demand for energy.

Until we can wean ourselves off of fossil fuels, many experts are banking on technologies that can capture carbon dioxide and put it to use instead of spewing it into the atmosphere. The challenge is to find efficient, affordable ways to do that.

So far, conventional carbon capture and sequestration technologies, such as membranes for separating the gas or materials to selectively absorb it, have been too costly for large-scale adoption. Many efforts have also been devoted to converting carbon dioxide to useful fuels and chemicals.

Recently, scientists have used electrochemical cells—devices that generate electrical energy from chemical reactions—to capture carbon dioxide from mixed-gas streams like exhaust gases. The devices proposed so far have employed lithium, magnesium, or sodium electrodes.

In the new work reported in the journal Science Advances, Cornell University researchers instead made a device that uses low-cost, abundant aluminum electrodes. Specifically, it has an anode (the positive terminal) made of aluminum foil; a porous carbon cathode; and an aluminum chloride electrolyte.

Read the rest of the article here.

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