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Scientists Make A Mineral That Can Solve The Global Warming Problem

Aug 16, 2018 07:34 PM EDT
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Scientists have found a way to make magnesite in the laboratory, a mineral that's known to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it.

A Powerful Mineral That Counters Climate Change

This is a huge step forward in addressing climate change by decreasing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide that has reached record levels as of late. While humans can develop technology to lessen mankind's carbon footprint, magnesite are naturally able to do so.

A single metric ton of natural magnesite can absorb about half a ton of carbon dioxide form the atmosphere. It's an impressive ability, but magnesite formation takes multiple generations to complete.

"Our work shows two things. Firstly, we have explained how and how fast magnesite forms naturally. This is a process which takes hundreds to thousands of years in nature at Earth's surface," Ian Power, project leader and professor at Trent University in Canada, says in a statement. "The second thing we have done is to demonstrate a pathway which speeds this process up dramatically."

Speeding Magnesite Production

For magnesite to make a significant impact on climate change, there would have to be at a much greater volume of the mineral than available naturally.

Fortunately, scientists have found a more rapid way to create magnesite. By using polystyrene microspheres as a catalyst, the team was able to produce magnesite within 72 days.

"Using microspheres means that we were able to speed up magnesite formation by orders of magnitude," Power explains. "This process takes place at room temperature, meaning that magnesite production is extremely energy efficient."

Being in the early stages of the technology, magnesite's carbon storage capabilities could take a while to execute on an industrial level, but now, scientists know that the process of speeding the mineral's production is possible.

"The potential for accelerating the process is also important, potentially offering a benign and relatively inexpensive route to carbon storage, and perhaps even direct CO2 removal from air," Peter Kelemen, a professor at Columbia University who was not involved in the study, says.

The findings were presented at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston.

Technologies for carbon capture and storage are big priorities for many nations who are aiming to reach the targets set at the international Paris climate change agreement, according to the Telegraph. However, there are scientists who say there are still no industry-ready procedures that can usher in the ambition to carry out CCS.

Popular Mechanics reports that there are also those who say more research is necessary before actually pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, considering it can greatly affect global weather patterns.

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