Worldwide, power plants that burn coal, natural gas, or oil to generate electricity release a huge amount of CO2 – estimated at 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide released each year, as a byproduct of combustion. An additional 11 billion tons of CO2 per year is released to heat residential and commercial buildings generates, which adds up to quite a burden on the Earth’s atmosphere.
But a new technology could be capable of using that same waste CO2 and generating electricity with it, which would turn a liability into a huge asset for the power industry.
In a paper published at Environmental Science and Technology Letters, Bert Hamelers and his co-authors describe a method for reacting the waste CO2 with water in order to produce an electron flow. According to the paper, Harvesting Energy from CO2 Emissions, if the method was used at power plants worldwide at current production rates, it could produce about 1,570 billion kw of electricity each year – without generating any additional CO2.
“To harvest the mixing energy from CO2-containing gas emissions, we use pairs of porous electrodes, one selective for anions and the other selective for cations. We demonstrate that when an aqueous electrolyte, flushed with either CO2 or air, alternately flows between these selective porous electrodes, electrical energy is gained. The efficiency of this process reached 24% with deionized water as the aqueous electrolyte and 32% with a 0.25 M monoethanolamine (MEA) solution as the electrolyte. The highest average power density obtained with a MEA solution as the electrolyte was 4.5 mW/m2, significantly higher than that with water as the electrolyte (0.28 mW/m2).” – ACS
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