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Waste CO2 could be a source of power

August 17, 2013

Waste CO2 could be a source of power

Dutch scientists have thought up a new use for all the carbon dioxide that pours out from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations: harvest it for even more electricity. They make the claim in a journal called Environmental Science and Technology Letters, which is published by the American Chemical Society, and the claim rests on a 200-year-old technique pioneered by Sir Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday: electrolysis.

They could, they argue, pump the carbon dioxide through water or other liquids and produce a flow of electrons and therefore more electricity. Power-generating stations release 12 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year as they burn coal, oil or natural gas; home and commercial heating plants release another 11 billion tonnes. This would be enough to create 1,750 terawatt hours of extra electricity annually, all without adding extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Bert Hamelers of Westus, a center for water excellence in the Netherlands, and colleagues from Wageningen University report that they used porous electrodes and flushed carbon dioxide into water to get their flow of current. In their experiment, they found out that as they flushed their aqueous electrolyte with air, and alternately with CO2 between their porous electrodes, a supply of electricity began to build up. Since the air that comes from the chimneys of fossil fuel-burning power stations contains anything up to 20% of CO2, even the emissions represent a potential for more power.

Nobody of course has a way of harvesting this power directly, but an old-fashioned experiment with electrodes in a laboratory shows that huge quantities of potential power are being lost every day, in unexpected ways.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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