Environment

Clay could be used for inexpensive carbon capture

Leander Michels (left) and Prof. Jon Otto Fossum hold a chamber they use to study clay samples (Photo: Per Harald Olsen, NTNU)
Leander Michels (left) and Prof. Jon Otto Fossum hold a chamber they use to study clay samples (Photo: Per Harald Olsen, NTNU)
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Leander Michels (left) and Prof. Jon Otto Fossum hold a chamber they use to study clay samples (Photo: Per Harald Olsen, NTNU)
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Leander Michels (left) and Prof. Jon Otto Fossum hold a chamber they use to study clay samples (Photo: Per Harald Olsen, NTNU)

In order to minimize the amount of human-produced greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere, numerous scientists have studied materials that could be used to capture excess carbon dioxide at one of its main sources – industrial smokestacks. Such substances have included metal-organic framework materials, ionic liquids, and even a sea urchin-inspired material. Unfortunately, however, not everything that's been suggested is inexpensive or easy to produce. That said, Norwegian researchers now believe that humble clay could do the job just fine.

Led by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Prof. Jon Otto Fossum and PhD candidate Leander Michels, the scientists discovered that clay minerals – particularly smectite – possess all the qualities needed for good CO2 capture. These include a large surface area, decent adsorption capability, the ability to selectively trap CO2 molecules before filling up on other types of molecules, low energy requirements, and reusability.

Smectite starts by swelling (and thus increasing its surface area) when exposed to moisture, such as that which is present in flue gases. From there, CO2 molecules in those gases bond with ions in the surface of the clay.

One type of smectite in particular, lithium-fluorohectorite, is able to hold onto those trapped molecules at ambient pressure, at temperatures up to 35 ºC (95 ºF). Once it's heated beyond that point, it releases them – this could allow for controlled repurposing of the CO2, and for reuse of the clay smokestack filter.

The scientists actually used synthetic smectite in their study, which they claim can be inexpensive to manufacture.

"Our experiments show that this kind of smectite can capture and retain as much CO2 as other materials that have been studied for this purpose," said Fossum. He added, however, that the research is still in its early stages, and it will be some time before such filters could be in use.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Gemini

9 comments
Max Kennedy
Would not this use of lithium compete with the use of the material for energy dense batteries.
Bradley Green
Hey I watch Fox News and they say humans CO2 contribution is not a problem and actually beneficial to the atmosphere.
LikelyLad
So when you say 'carbon capture' you actually mean 'carbon dioxide capture'? Two totally different things.
b@man
Makes as much sense as unicorn feed.
christopher
LOL. We're burning fossil fuels, then scratching our heads about what to do with the leftovers. Morons: go plant some trees.
Roy Murray
Carbon capture is a literal smokescreen that encourages people to think we can carry on burning fossil fuels without regard to the consequences. Once the carbon is 'captured', there's the problem of storage. Presumably vast amounts of the material holding the carbon will need to be stored somewhere. Solution: put this money and effort into developing renewable energy sources, then, as Christopher so eloquently puts it, 'Morons: go plant some trees'.
robo
Why waste scarce research money on carbon capture? The real honest evidence is saying man-made carbon has no impact on climate. Carbon has increased the past 20 years way past the worst predictions but global average temperature stayed the same. All the computer predictions said tmeperatures should have gone up 2'F.
Lbrewer42
Its over folks - the only people keeping the AGW farce alive are the politicians who seek to make money from it. Google Game Over the IPCC silently admit defeat. Their data was com;iled into one source and it showed absolutely no AGW has been taking place the whole time they have been cramming it down our throats. And the IPCC is the UN's own panel for studying AGW. Truthfully the issue was over with the so-called Climate Gate papers (yes, I DID read/research them). But the media and politics has too much to lose if they don;t ridicule these things. Can you imagine how much the potential lawsuit against them would be worth if they had to give back all the $ they forced people to pay by putting people even through vehicle emissions tests? Its done. Its dead. Its political - and was birthed as such. Research and move on to actual science please.
Andrew Zuckerman
How about plant a ton of trees on every available part of everywhere. Many many problems solved. How about stop cutting down Christmas trees and rent out a potted tree that can be picked up on the curb after Christmas and replanted.
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