New solar-powered process removes CO2 from the air and stores it as solid carbon

The alarming rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led a numerous proposals on how to capture and store CO2 in order to mitigate the damaging emissions from fossil fuels. Popular proposals, some already being tested on a large scale, involve carbon sequestration and subsequent storage in geological formations (geo-sequestration). Other ideas revolve around recycling captured carbon dioxide, for instance by converting it into hydrocarbons that can be re-used to make fuel or plastics. While these solutions would result in removing some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, their disadvantages are that most of them are expensive, technologically challenging, or energy-intensive.
Researchers have now presented the first experimental evidence of a new solar conversion process, combining electronic and chemical pathways, for carbon dioxide capture in what could become a revolutionary approach to remove and recycle CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale. Rather than trying to sequester or hide away excess carbon dioxide, this new method allows it to be stored as solid carbon or converted in useful products ranging from plastics to synthetic jet fuel.
“The STEP (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Photo) process proactively converts anthropogenic carbon dioxide generated in burning fossil fuels, as well as eliminates carbon dioxide emissions associated with the generation of metals and bleach,” Stuart Licht, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Solar Institute at George Washington University, explains to Nanowerk. “Our new STEP carbon capture process is the culmination of over 20 years of ongoing research, starting with developing solar energy to drive chemical, rather than only electronic, energy (“A description of energy conversion in photoelectrochemical solar cells”). In 2003, we set the theoretical basis that solar visible and solar thermal sunlight will provide a synergistic enhancement of solar energy conversion efficiency, and in 2009 the theoretical basis for STEP carbon capture (“STEP Generation of Energetic Molecules: A Solar Chemical Process to End Anthropogenic Global Warming”).”

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Biotechnology could cut C02 sharply

Industrial biotechnology has the potential to save the planet up to 2.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions per year and support building a sustainable future, a WWF report found.

As the world is debating how to cut dangerous emissions and come together in an international agreement treaty which will help protect the planet from potentially devastating effects of climate change, innovative ideas how to reduce our CO2 are very valuable.
A recent report published by WWF Denmark identifies the potential to be between 1 billion and 2.5 billion tons CO2 per year by 2030, more than Germany’s total reported emissions in 1990.

Industrial biotechnology could help create a true 21st century green economy, the report states.

Industrial biotechnology applications are already widely used in everyday life. They help reduce the amount of time needed to bake fresh bread, increase the yield in wine, cheese and vegetable oil production and save heat in laundry washing.

“Low carbon biotech solutions are a good example of hidden or invisible climate solutions that are all around us already today but are easy to overlook for policymakers, investors and companies.” says John Kornerup Bang, Head of Globalization Program at WWF Denmark and coauthor of the report.

A newer example on how biotechnology solutions could help reduce carbon emissions is the harvesting of biogas from waste digesters and wastewater streams.
The report emphasizes the potential of taking that existing technology even one step further and creating fully closed loop systems.

Biorefineries are able to transform any biobased waste material into a valuable feedstock for the production of other biobased materials. The possible emission reductions for such processes are estimated to be as high as 633 million tons of CO2.

The report indentifies four fundamental dimensions of industrial biotechnology: Improved efficiency, the substitution of fossil fuels, the substitution of oil-based materials and the creation of a closed loop system with the potential to eliminate waste.

But as with most technologies, the potential to achieve sustainability objectives does not automatically translate into such goals be­ing realized.

“Politicians need to set the path toward a green economy. This will not be easy, and we must look for new solutions, which can help us reduce emissions very quickly. It is clear that there is no alternative to explore these inno­vative pathways,” John Kornerup Bang said.

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