ETH Zurich Develops New Carbon Removal Method Using Light

ETH Zurich Develops New Carbon Removal Method Using Light - Carbon Herald

An ETH Zurich research team has developed a novel carbon removal method, which uses light instead of heat. 

This groundbreaking discovery has the potential to greatly lower the cost of carbon dioxide removal (CDR), which the world so desperately needs at the moment, but is currently too expensive to reach the necessary gigaton scale. 

And one of the main culprits for the current sky-high prices of carbon removal technologies is the high amount of energy they require. 

This is precisely the problem researchers at ETH Zurich have set out to tackle with their breakthrough approach, which promises to eliminate the need for energy sources altogether. 

The new technology uses the fact that when present in acidic liquids that contain water, CO2 is a stable compound. 

Image is for illustrative purposes only. Source: Rafael Classen via Pexels

In alkaline liquids containing water, however, the CO2 reacts to form carbonates (salts), and this reaction can be reversed by making the liquid acidic. 

In turn, the team of scientists led by professor of electrochemical energy systems Maria Lukatskaya discovered that the acidity can be influenced by photoacid molecules that react to light.

Namely, when exposed to light, these molecules make the liquid acidic, but revert to their original state in the absence of light, thus rendering the liquid alkaline again.

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The research team passes air through a liquid containing photoacids in darkness, until it becomes saturated enough with carbonates formed by the CO2 reacting with the photoacids.

After this, the liquid is exposed to light, causing the carbonates to turn back into CO2 and bubble up to the surface, where it can be collected in tanks. 

Hence, the entire process of capturing CO2 from the air can be facilitated by sunlight, which solves the issue of energy intensiveness. 

And while the novel technology is still far away from becoming commercially available with further tests and fine-tuning required, it does hold much promise for climate change mitigation. 

Read more: Bezos Earth Fund Announces $1M Prize For New Greenhouse Gas Removal Solutions

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