Carbon dioxide Current Affairs - 2019

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MIT researchers develop new technology to remove CO2 from air

Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), United States (US) have developed a new technology to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from a stream of air, virtually at any concentration level. This is a new advance that may pave the way for new strategies to reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) levels. The study by researchers was published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

About the New Technology

While in most of the prevalent methods, removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from a stream of gas required higher concentrations like those found in flue emissions from fossil fuel-based power plants, but the new method could take out gas even when it was present in very low concentrations.

Method: Researchers described the device as a large, specialized battery with a stack of electrodes that absorbs CO2 from air passing over its surface as it was being charged up, and then released gas as it was being discharged. A chemical reaction then takes place at surface of each of a stack of electrodes as battery charges.

The electrodes are coated with a compound called polyanthraquinone compounded with carbon nanotubes.  The study noted that electrodes have a natural affinity for CO2 and readily reacted with its molecules in airstream/feed gas.  This new technology device operates at room temperature and normal air pressure.

The biggest advantage of this technology over most other carbon absorbing/carbon capture technologies is- ‘binary nature of the adsorbent’s affinity to carbon dioxide’. Moreover, the new system is energy efficient compared to existing methods- consistently using about one gigajoule (GJ) of energy per ton of CO2 captured.

Key Facts: Deep Carbon Observatory

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO) is a global research program to outreach carbons role on Earth. It is a community of scientists including physicists, biologists, geo – scientists and chemists working across several traditional disciplinary lines.

Key highlights of DCO research

  • It has found that there are ultra – deep diamonds at 670 km depth in the mantle. It has signatures of geochemical signature of organic material from Earth’s surface.
  • There may be significant amounts of iron carbide in the Earth’s core that accounts to two – thirds of Earth’s carbon
  • It has identified abiogenic sources of methane from crust and mantle. Abiogenesis is a hypothetical theory which proposes that fossil fuels are formed from inorganic matter rather than by decomposition of organisms or organic matter.
  • The complex links between biosphere and geosphere and their evolution. The links are reflected in major events like Great Oxidation Event
    • Great Oxidation Event – Around 2.4 billion years ago, biologically induced molecular oxygen accumulated in the Earth’s atmosphere. This changed the atmosphere to an oxidizing atmosphere from a weak reducing atmosphere. The even caused almost all lives on the Earth to go extinct. Scientists are still unable to determine causes of the event.
  • The Volcanic flux of carbon – dioxide is twice as that of previously determined.

DCO Explorations

The DCO explores

  • High pressure and Extreme temperature organic synthesis
  • Complex interactions between organic molecules and minerals
  • Conducts field observations of deep microbial eco systems
  • Constructs theoretical models of lower crust and upper mantle carbon sources
  • Conducts observations of anomalies in petroleum geochemistry

Reservoir and Flux community of DCO

The subduction of tectonic plates and volcanic outgassing are the main sources of carbon fluxes. But the process and rates of these carbon fluxes are poorly understood. The main function of the Reservoir and Flux community of DCO is to explore the storage and transport of carbon in the deep interior of the Earth.

The Deep Earth Carbon Degassing Project of DCO is examining if large reservoirs of carbon are hidden in the mantle and core. It also works on finding how this carbon outgasses from the Earth’s deep interior into the surface environment.

Deep Energy wing of DCO

It quantifies the processes and environmental conditions that control origins, forms, quantities and movements of carbon compounds. This community of DCO predominantly works around carbon compounds that were reduced from deep carbon compounds through geologic time.

It conducts investigations in 25 global terrestrial and marine environment to determine the processes controlling movements of abiotic gases and their origin, form, quantities. It also discriminates abiotic and biotic methane gas and organic species.

The Deep Energy community also quantifies the rates of fluid rock interactions that produce abiotic hydrogen.

Deep life wing of DCO

It documents the interaction between the carbon cycle and diversity of Earth’s deep biosphere. It marks the diversity of subsurface marine and continental microorganisms in space and time and their interaction with the deep carbon.

The wing conducts Census of Deep life annually. This census identifies the diversity and distribution of microbial life in continental and marine deep subsurface environments.

According to the 2018 census by the Deep life wing of DCO, life forms on the earth including 70% of bacteria comprises up to 23 billion tons of carbon. They live up to 4.8 km deep underground including 2.5 km below the seabed.