New Technique to Trap Carbon Dioxide in Rocks

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Researchers in Canada discovered a new technique to trap carbon dioxide using microballs made of polystyrene to create magnesite in 72 days.

Scientists have long been knowing that limestone and other minerals store a lot of carbon dioxide inside it. The researchers at Trent University in Peterborough harnessed the same technique of limestone but by increasing the speed of trapping. Ian Power, geoscientist at Trent University in Peterborough, said, “This natural process is slow. It can take thousands or even millions of years. At present, he explains, “We’re emitting so much CO2 now that Earth can’t keep up.”

The team treated the mineral magnesite in laboratory to lock carbon dioxide in a few months, which naturally takes thousands of years to trap carbon dioxide in it. They combined positively charged magnesium ions and negatively charged carbonate ions.

Magnesite has the potential to hold enormous amount of carbon dioxide naturally. The team investigated the mineral in Canada’s western province of British Columbia, where the mineral occurred in the earth’s surface. They analyzed the mineral combining rocks and CO2 using lots of heat in the lab, to make the mineral quickly. They found that the ions react to form magnesite, and then finally it settles out of the water, creating hard rock.

“When magnesium ions are in water, the water molecules form a ‘shell’ around the ions. This keeps the magnesium from bonding to carbonate ions. It’s difficult to strip away those water molecules, but unless you do, the magnesite will take a very long time to form,” explained Powar. They finally developed microsphere out of polystyrene to build magnesite in about 72 days. However, there is still lot of research work needed for the technique to be used commercially.


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