In this month’s Intute Spotlight, I report on a new approach to carbon storage that researchers hope will allow us to reduce or stabilise atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, although I have my doubts.
Carbon sequestration is a well-studied theoretical approach to reduce carbon emissions by locking up carbon dioxide deep in the ground or on the ocean floor in various forms. Whether or not such an approach is tenable in terms of the overall energy balance is open to debate but experimental efforts at developing efficient systems to extract the gas from the emissions of electric power stations are underway. The latest effort was recently patented by researchers at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.
A nanostructured polymer membrane that can extract carbon dioxide from a gaseous flow and convert it to bicarbonate ions could be the key to carbon sequestration in the fight to control levels of the greenhouse gas.
Also high on the green agenda, improving the efficiency per unit cost of solar energy panels, which seems a reasonable alternative and could reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, with the proviso that making, installing, maintaining, and recycling such panels still costs energy and resources, despite the implications made by some environmentalists that they offer free energy. The work in question claims to have cut costs to less than $1 per Watt produced. Finally, there are some doomsayers who would say that we need not worry about the long-term threat of climate change and the decline of fossil fuel supplies because we are long overdue for a catastrophic asteroid impact. The European Space Agency’s “Don Quijote” mission hopes to tilt at asteroids and help give us a clear view of incoming.