Sat, Oct 22, 2016 | updated 09:02 AM IST

The 'green power' of breath

Updated: Aug 05, 2016 10:00 IST

Washington D.C, Aug 5 (ANI): There's a new trash-to-treasure idea in town that will help turn unwanted carbon dioxide into electricity.

Cornell University researchers disclose a novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas and converting it to a useful product, while producing electrical energy.

Researchers Lynden Archer and Wajdi Al Sadat developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester the carbon dioxide and produce electricity.

The group's proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode. The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the carbon dioxide into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

In most current carbon-capture models, the carbon is captured in fluids or solids, which are then heated or depressurized to release the carbon dioxide. The concentrated gas must then be compressed and transported to industries able to reuse it, or sequestered underground. The findings in the study represent a possible paradigm shift, Archer said.

"The fact that we've designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important," he said. "One of the roadblocks to adopting current carbon dioxide capture technology in electric power plants is that the regeneration of the fluids used for capturing carbon dioxide utilize as much as 25 percent of the energy output of the plant. This seriously limits commercial viability of such technology. Additionally, the captured carbon dioxide must be transported to sites where it can be sequestered or reused, which requires new infrastructure."

The group reported that their electrochemical cell generated 13 ampere hours per gram of porous carbon (as the cathode) at a discharge potential of around 1.4 volts. The energy produced by the cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

Another key aspect of their findings, Archer noted, is in the generation of superoxide intermediates, which are formed when the dioxide is reduced at the cathode. The superoxide reacts with the normally inert carbon dioxide, forming a carbon-carbon oxalate that is widely used in many industries, including pharmaceutical, fiber and metal smelting.

Al Sadat said this technology in not limited to power-plant applications. "It fits really well with onboard capture in vehicles, especially if you think of an internal combustion engine and an auxiliary system that relies on electrical power."

The study is published in Science Advances. (ANI)