ETH Zurich: Harnessing Sunlight for Carbon Dioxide Capture

In a bid to address the urgent need for efficient carbon capture, researchers have unveiled a groundbreaking technique utilizing light and light-triggered molecules. This method not only promises a more sustainable approach but could significantly reduce the energy-intensive nature of current technologies.

Current Landscape of Carbon Capture

Amid growing global concerns about climate change, the United Nations emphasizes the pivotal role of capturing carbon dioxide emissions in meeting climate goals. Presently, thirty commercial carbon capture projects operate worldwide, with 11 more under construction. However, existing methods are both costly and energy-intensive.

A Solar-Powered Solution to Capture Carbon

Published in the journal Chemistry of Materials, the novel approach, developed by Professor Maria Lukatskaya and her team at ETH Zurich, revolves around harnessing light and special light-triggered molecules. The key advantage lies in its potential to be powered by solar energy, presenting a more sustainable alternative.

Understanding the Chemical Process

The innovation hinges on the reversible chemical reaction of CO2 in different liquid environments. In acidic liquids, CO2 remains in its original form, while in alkaline solutions, it reacts to form carbonic acid salts or carbonates. This chemical transformation is reversible and can be manipulated using light.

To initiate the process, the researchers introduced photoacids, light-activated molecules, to the liquid. These molecules induce acidity upon exposure to light and revert to their original state in darkness. This ingenious approach allows for the manipulation of acidity levels crucial for the carbon capture cycle.

To capture Carbon Dioxide from a gas mixture, the researchers guide the mixture through the photoacid-containing liquid in darkness. The alkaline solution prompts the formation of carbonates. Subsequently, exposure to light switches the acidity, converting carbonates back to CO2, which is then collected. This rapid cycle contrasts with traditional heat-driven methods.

Solar Efficiency and Speed

The researchers assert that the process is compatible with sunlight, providing a sustainable energy source. Moreover, the swift reversal of acidity in seconds to minutes distinguishes this method from its heat-driven counterparts, enhancing efficiency.

Addressing Stability Challenges

While the photoacids currently decompose in the liquid after approximately a month, the research team is actively working on enhancing the stability of these molecules. Their ongoing efforts aim to optimize the method further, ensuring prolonged effectiveness.

Also, Read about Golgi Apparatus Protein Unveils Potential Secrets of Human Aging