Harvesting electricity from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide

A new method for producing electricity from carbon dioxide could be the start of a classic trash-to-treasure story for the troublesome greenhouse gas, scientists are reporting. Described in an article in ACS’ newly launched journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, the method uses CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks as the raw material for making electricity.

Bert Hamelers, Ph.D., and colleagues explain that electric power-generating stations worldwide release about 12 billion tons of CO2 annually from combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. Home and commercial heating produces another 11 billion tons. Smokestack gas from a typical coal-fired plant contains about 10 percent CO2, which not only goes to waste, but is a key contributor to global warming. Hamelers’ team sought a way to change that trash into a treasure.

They describe technology that would react the CO2 with water or other liquids and, with further processing, produce a flow of electrons that make up electric current. It could produce about 1,570 kilowatts of additional electricity annually if used to harvest CO2 from power plants, industry and residences. That’s about 400 times the annual electrical output of the Hoover Dam. Like that dam and other hydroelectric power facilities, that massive additional amount of electricity would be produced without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, Hamelers pointed out.

Harvesting electricity from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxideCopies of the paper, with a detailed account of the research, are available from the ACS news media contacts above.

The authors acknowledge funding from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, the European Regional Development Fund, the Province of Fryslân, the City of Leeuwarden, the EZ/Kompas program of the “Samenwerkingsverband Noord-Nederland” and the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 163,000 members, ACS is the world’s largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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