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Can a crystal ward off climate change?

"As far as I know this is the first material that captures CO2 in an efficient way," said researcher Osamu Terasaki.

By
Brooks Hays
A new type of crystal could be used to filter CO2 from the atmosphere. The material could potentially be installed in smokestacks or vehicle exhaust systems. Photo by akiyoko/Shutterstock.
A new type of crystal could be used to filter CO2 from the atmosphere. The material could potentially be installed in smokestacks or vehicle exhaust systems. Photo by akiyoko/Shutterstock.

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- Carbon-absorbing crystals probably won't stave off global warming, but they could help put a dent in carbon emissions.

Carbon capturing technologies are mostly too expensive, but a new discovery could change that.

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Scientists in Sweden have developed a new type of synthetic crystal with carbon-capturing micropores. Researchers say the crystal can capture carbon dioxide more efficiently than similar materials, even in the presence of water.

Researchers have previously experimented with CO2 capturing materials as a potential tool against global warming, but the co-absorption of water inhibits the process. For these materials to work, gas must first be dehumidified. The added expense makes that technology unrealistic.

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But scientists at the Stockholm University developed a microporous coppersilicate crystal with separate CO2 and H2O uptake locations. The crystal absorbs both carbon and water, but its CO2 absorption is unaffected.

And because the crystal was synthesized hydrothermally, the material remains stable even after its H2O absorption. Similar materials degrade as they take up water.

The new material is detailed in the journal Science.

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"As far as I know this is the first material that captures CO2 in an efficient way in the presence of humidity," Osamu Terasaki, a material scientists and chemistry professor at Stockholm, said in a press release. "In other cases there is competition between water and carbon dioxide and water usually wins. This material adsorbs both, but the CO2 uptake is enormous."

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The material could potentially be used to create filters on the top of smokestacks that prevent CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere -- though there aren't specific plans for application in place.

"CO2 is always produced with moisture, and now we can capture CO2 from humid gases. Combined with other systems that are being developed, the waste carbon can be used for new valuable compounds," Terasaki said. "People are working very hard and I think we will be able to do this within five years. The most difficult part is to capture carbon dioxide, and we have a solution for that now."

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