One of the holy grails of clean technology is now one step closer to reality as Noble Prize-winning chemist George Olah just developed a breakthrough low-cost plastic material than acts as one of the most effective CO2 absorbers ever created. Olah directed a team of researchers at the University of Southern California to take a common plastic which soaks up CO2 at moderate levels and fuse it to a silica substrate which vastly increases its surface area – and thus its effectiveness.

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The team’s research is geared towards developing a CO2 absorbing material that is low-cost and simple to use.The USC team plans to incorporate the material in an iron-based battery for renewable energy storage for energy grids. The battery uses the dynamic of oxygenation, and it can be ruined by CO2, so the researchers took advantage of polyethylenimine’s (PEI) ability to soak up carbon.

Since the polymer’s ability to absorb is hampered by its low surface area the team dissolved the plastic and applied it to fumed silica which has an extremely high surface area. The result is a material that has one of the highest absorption rates of CO2 for any known material – and it’s available at a vastly lower cost than other alternatives.

The material also exhibits other positive attributes – it can catalyze at room temperature and releases CO2 at 80 degrees celsius – a relatively low temperature compared to other materials. The material can be made in large quantities at low-cost, but because it is a plastic with a low melting point it cannot be used near CO2 pollution sources like tailpipes and smokestacks. Olah envisions using the trapped CO2 and combining it with hydrogen to make methanol for fuel.

Via Science Now

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