Tiny nanomotors could help scrub oceans clean of carbon dioxide pollution. Scientists at the University of California in San Diego have developed a system of nano machines that remove CO2 as they pass through water. If successful, the nano machines could slow down climate change while promoting greater ocean health at the same time.
The tiny machines are thinner than a human hair, but hone the power to eliminate carbon dioxide. An enzyme on the nano machines’ surface creates a reaction between carbon dioxide and water, creating a bicarbonate. With the addition of calcium chloride, the bicarbonate becomes calcium carbonate. In other words, the nano scrubbers transform carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate, which does not release greenhouse gases.
In the laboratory, the micro nano machines were found to scrub 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from the tested solution of deionized water, and 88 percent of the carbon dioxide in seawater. Albeit in a controlled situation, the micromotors were able to remove the carbon dioxide in just five minutes, and could be reused again and again in new samples of polluted waters.
Scientists hope this process can be expanded to effectively treat polluted water on a large scale. Although still in an experimental phase, the nano machines could be expanded at scale to create massive water decarbonation plants, a promising prospect indeed.
Lead image via Laboratory for Nanobioelectronics, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering; others via ©Joseph and ©Milan Boers