Researchers in Brazil have developed something they’ve called a ‘hydrogel’ designed to improve the ability of soil to capture and store CO2.
The research was funded largely by Shell Brasil and is part of the Hydrogel Program that includes the work of scientists from the Energy and Nuclear Research Institute (IPEN), the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).
The hydrogel consists of organic material and creates oxalic acid as a result of synthesizing CO2 molecules. In turn, the oxalic acid is combined with a bio-monomer to stabilize the newly formed molecule. Hence, the acid has a negative carbon footprint.
As found during their research, granules of hydrogel can be used on crops to capture CO2 emissions and store them in the soil.
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The product has yet to undergo more extensive testing on crops, and while that is underway, normative standards will be developed to ensure the hydrogel can at some point also enter commercial production.
Soil has natural carbon capture and storage properties. However, under natural conditions, only about a third of the captured CO2 remains in the soil, whereas the other two thirds are released back into the aid.
The new hydrogel is said to change that ratio significantly in favor of the emissions stored.
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Furthermore, the team of scientists is now also working to determine the exact CO2 storage potential of their product under tropical conditions.
Another point that they are eager to look into is the soil-plant synergy. In addition to carbon dioxide, expectations are that the hydrogel may also be able to hold moisture and release it to the plants over time.
If this theory proves true, it may increase the crops’ ability to absorb nutrients and minimize the necessity for irrigation.