Navigation Links
Scientists enhance Mother Nature's carbon handling mechanism

Taking a page from Nature herself, a team of researchers developed a method to enhance removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and place it in the Earth's oceans for storage.

Unlike other proposed ocean sequestration processes, the new technology does not make the oceans more acid and may be beneficial to coral reefs. The process is a manipulation of the natural weathering of volcanic silicate rocks. Reporting in today's (Nov. 7) issue of Environmental Science and Technology, the Harvard and Penn State team explained their method.

"The technology involves selectively removing acid from the ocean in a way that might enable us to turn back the clock on global warming," says Kurt Zenz House, graduate student in Earth and planetary sciences, Harvard University. "Essentially, our technology dramatically accelerates a cleaning process that Nature herself uses for greenhouse gas accumulation."

In natural silicate weathering, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere dissolves in fresh water and forms weak carbonic acid. As the water percolates through the soil and rocks, the carbonic acid converts to a solution of alkaline carbonate salts. This water eventually flows into the ocean and increases its alkalinity. An alkaline ocean can hold dissolved carbon, while an acidic one will release the carbon back into the atmosphere. The more weathering, the more carbon is transferred to the ocean where some of it eventually becomes part of the sea bottom sediments.

"In the engineered weathering process we have found a way to swap the weak carbonic acid with a much stronger one (hydrochloric acid) and thus accelerate the pace to industrial rates," says House.

The researchers minimize the potential for environmental problems by combining the acid removal with silicate rock weathering mimicking the natural process. The more alkaline ocean can store carbon as bicarbonate, the most plentiful and innocuous form of carbon in the oceans.

According to House, this would allow removal of excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a matter of decades rather than millennia.

Besides removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, this technique would counteract the continuing acidification of the oceans that threatens coral reefs and their biological communities. The technique is adaptable to operation in remote areas on geothermal or natural gas and is global rather than local. Unlike carbon dioxide scrubbers on power plants, the process can as easily remove naturally generated carbon dioxide as that produced from burning fossil fuel for power.

The researchers, Kurt House; Daniel P. Schrag, director, Harvard University Center for the Environment and professor of Earth and planetary sciences; Michael J. Aziz, the Gordon McKay professor of material sciences, all at Harvard University and Kurt House's brother, Christopher H. House, associate professor of geosciences, Penn State, caution that while they believe their scheme for reducing global warming is achievable, implementation would be ambitious, costly and would carry some environmental risks that require further study. The process would involve building dozens of facilities similar to large chlorine gas industrial plants, on volcanic rock coasts.

"This work shows how we can remove carbon dioxide on relevant timescales, but more work is be needed to bring down the cost and minimize other environmental effects," says Christopher H. House.


Contact: Andrea Elyse Messer
Penn State

Related biology news :

1. UK scientists working to help cut ID theft
2. Scientists show that mitochondrial DNA variants are linked to risk factors for type 2 diabetes
3. Comet probes reveal evidence of origin of life, scientists claim
4. Scientists link fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome to binding protein in RNA
5. Male elephants get photo IDs from scientists
6. Scientists retrace evolution with first atomic structure of an ancient protein
7. Muscle mass: Scientists identify novel mode of transcriptional regulation during myogenesis
8. Carnegie Mellon scientists develop nanogels that enable controlled delivery of carbohydrate drugs
9. Clemson scientists shed light on molecules in living cells
10. Scientists tackle mystery mountain illness
11. T. rex quicker than Becks, say scientists
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/27/2015)... , October 27, 2015 ... Automated Semantic Gaze Mapping technology (ASGM) automatically maps data ... Eye Tracking Glasses , so that they can ... --> Munich, Germany , October ... automatically maps data from mobile eye tracking videos created ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... October 26, 2015 ... adds Biometrics Market Shares, ... as well as Emerging Biometrics Technologies: ... to its collection of IT and ... . --> ...
(Date:10/26/2015)...  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on bringing ... devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris recognition ... by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... to include iris recognition technology, after a very successful ... May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this capability. ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 25, 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; ... and prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the ... recently received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC ... of the final interim efficacy and safety data ... in men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... 2015  Asia-Pacific (APAC) holds the third-largest share ... The trend of outsourcing to low-cost locations is ... volume share for the region in the short ... in the CRO industry will improve. ... ), finds that the market earned revenues ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... Copper ... unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to cells. With ... Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper in the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader SAP and AdVenture ... develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness in their schools. ... to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid trip to Super ...
Breaking Biology Technology: