Researchers have found an interesting – and smart – way to combat global warming. A team of international scientists has been able to take carbon dioxide emitted by a power plant in Iceland, and turn it into stone! Findings of the study were published Thursday in the journal Science. Even more interesting is the fact that they turned CO2 into stone in just two years. Scientists previously believed it would take thousands of years to do it.
CarbFix process turns CO2 into calcium carbonate
Scientists led by Juerg Matter from Southampton University, UK said in a statement that their method could be scaled up and used worldwide since the carbon is buried in basalt, which is common across the globe. The process begins by mixing carbon dioxide with water that is injected into a well containing basalt. The acidic combination of CO2 and water reacts with minerals in basalt such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
While the process neutralizes the water, the minerals combine with CO2 to produce calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Initially, scientists were concerned about the effects of the process and the resulting rock on the environment. Basalt also includes chromium and aluminum, which could be environmental hazards. However, scientists found that water pulled out of the ground after the CO2 processing was fit for human consumption by European health standards.
It’s not yet a silver bullet for global warming
The study was part of the CarbFix project, which includes scientists from several countries and the Icelandic energy firm Reykjavik Energy. Amid global warming concerns, scientists have long considered capturing CO2 and sequestering it underground to reduce the atmospheric carbon. There were various proposals for storing CO2 in old oil wells, empty underground aquifers, and unminable coal seams. But the biggest concern with such methods was that the carbon could find a way to leak back into the atmosphere.
Fortunately, the new method turns CO2 into solid rock, which does not leak or pose a threat to the environment. Scientists said the process needs to be further studied and refined. One major disadvantage of the CarbFix process is that it requires up to 20 tons of water for every ton of carbon. Scientists argue that this can be addressed by using ocean water.