Scientists create a new process to remove carbon dioxide from the sea

Inspenet, March 6, 2023

A team made up of T. Alan Hatton, Kripa Varanasi, Seoni Kim, Michael Nitzsche, Simon Rufer and Jack Lake, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States, have devised a mechanism for removing CO2 of the sea, really effective and economical, a technological advance to combat global climate change.

The team has devised a reversible process based on membraneless electrochemical cells. Reactive electrodes are used to release protons into the seawater supplied to the cells, which drives the release of dissolved carbon dioxide in the water.

The process is cyclical. Periodically, the roles in each set of two cells are reversed. This occurs when one group of electrodes has run out of protons and the other has been regenerated during alkalization.

This removal of carbon dioxide combined with reinjection of alkaline water could slowly begin to reverse, at least on a local scale, ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide buildup in seawater.

This acidification is increasingly damaging coral reefs and many shell-bearing organisms.

The reinjection of alkaline water could be done through points along the coast that are sufficiently dispersed, or from points far from the coast, to avoid a local peak of alkalinity that could alter the ecosystems.

1505 retirar dioxido de carbono del mar interna
Image : Courtesy of the research team. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Initially, the system can use already existing infrastructures that process seawater, such as desalination plants, but the system can be adapted to other scales and supports. This new method could also be used on ships and offshore platforms.

Once carbon dioxide has been removed from the water, it still needs to be disposed of, as with other carbon removal processes. For example, it can be buried in geological formations deep under the seabed or chemically converted into a compound such as ethanol, which can be used as a transportation fuel, or other useful chemicals.

Hatton and his colleagues discuss the technical details of their method in the academic journal Energy & Environmental Science, under the title “Asymmetric chloride-mediated electrochemical process for CO 2 removal from oceanwater.”

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Cover photo : ShutterStock

Internal image : Courtesy of the research team. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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