In a new breakthrough discovery, scientists have found a way to turn CO2 gas into solid flakes of carbon. A research team led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, created a method that uses liquid metal electrolysis as an effective conversion catalyst. Their research has been published in the journal Nature Communications in a paper titled “Room temperature CO2 reduction to solid carbon species on liquid metals featuring atomically thin ceria interfaces”.
During their research, the scientists developed a liquid metal catalyst that has specific surface properties that make it very efficient at conducting electricity, which chemically activates the surface. When CO2 is dissolved into this liquid, an electrical charge passed through the container causes the gas to slowly convert into solid flakes of carbon. These flakes detach from the surface, allowing for continuous use.
The new method has the potential to remove considerable amounts of the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere safely and permanently. Carbon capture and storage has long been a thorny issue around the world. This new method was borne out of a collaboration that also involved researchers from the U.S. (North Carolina State University), Germany (University of Munster), China (Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics), and Australia (UNSW, University of Wollongong, Monash University, QUT).
The current method of turning the gas into a liquid and injecting it underground is both costly and potentially hazardous to the communities around the deposit sites. RMIT researcher Dr. Torben Daeneke said in an interveiw, “To date, CO2 has only been converted into a solid at extremely high temperatures, making it industrially unviable. By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scalable.”
The research was conducted at RMIT’s MicroNano Research Facility and the RMIT Microscopy and Microanalysis Facility. The research was supported by the Australian Research Council Centre for Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies (FLEET) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES).