Revolutionary Electrochemical Process for Carbon Capture and Conversion in Hard-to-Decarbonize Industries

Revolutionary Electrochemical Process for Carbon Capture and Conversion in Hard-to-Decarbonize Industries

Scientists at MIT have made a breakthrough in efforts to reduce emissions from the hardest-to-decarbonize industries, such as steel and cement. They have discovered a single electrochemical process that can both capture and convert carbon dioxide. This integrated system is far more energy-efficient than existing technologies, which require separate processes and consume a significant amount of energy.

The team focused on carbon-capture technologies to tackle emissions from industries like steel, cement, and chemical manufacturing that heavily rely on carbon and fossil fuels. If carbon emissions can be captured and repurposed within the production process, it could lead to a significant reduction in emissions from these “hard-to-abate” sectors.

The researchers published their findings in the journal ACS Catalysis. Through extensive experiments, they determined that the partial pressure of carbon dioxide is the key driver of the electrochemical reaction. The more pure carbon dioxide that is in contact with the electrode, the more efficiently it can capture and convert the molecule.

While the electrochemical systems may not be suitable for capturing and converting carbon emissions directly from the air, they are well-suited to highly concentrated emissions generated by industrial processes without obvious renewable alternatives.

Decarbonizing industries like cement or steel production is challenging and requires long-term solutions. The integrated electrochemical system developed by the MIT team could provide a crucial short-term solution for dealing with emissions from these industries.

Carbon-capture technologies typically capture emissions from power plants and manufacturing facilities. However, they require large installations and are expensive and energy-intensive to run. The MIT researchers aim to develop a more modular and flexible system that can be adapted to different sources of carbon dioxide. Their electrochemical system can recover captured carbon dioxide and convert it into a usable product, entirely powered by renewable electricity.

The research team at MIT emphasized that their electrochemical process is not a removal technology for carbon dioxide. Instead, it allows for the recycling of carbon dioxide multiple times while sustaining existing industrial processes with fewer associated emissions. The ultimate goal is to design processes for mineralization and permanent storage of carbon dioxide.

The MIT researchers hope that their findings will pave the way for more efficient and sustainable carbon-capture technologies in the future. With further development and optimization, this integrated system could significantly contribute to global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize hard-to-abate industries.

The study was supported by Sunway University in Malaysia, and the MIT co-authors include Graham Leverick, Elizabeth M. Bernhardt, Aisyah Illyani Ismail, Jun Hui Law, Arif Arifutzzaman, and Mohamed Kheireddine Aroua.


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