Carbon recapture is a relatively new technology. It was born out of the need to mitigate the effects of climate change without decarbonising suddenly and risking energy security and supply. It is defined as the process of capturing waste CO2 from various sources. So, it could be used for more than just CO2 emitting power plants. It will also operate with industries that have a heavy carbon dioxide output. Industries like cement or ceramics would benefit greatly from carbon recapture, vastly reducing their CO2 output.
Its main aim is to capture the release of large quantities of CO2 into our atmosphere. The carbon dioxide will be captured from the air to be stored in a storage site, typically underground.
How does it work?
Carbon can be captured directly out of the air through various technologies; absorption, adsorption, chemical scrubbing, chemical looping or membrane separation. Though absorption and carbon scrubbing are the most dominant methods of carbon capture at the moment. Absorption uses processes called physisorption and chemisorption.
Physisorption is also simply known as absorption, it’s just the scientific name of the process in which something is absorbed. It is described as a process in which the electronic structure of the atom or molecule is barely perturbed upon being absorbed. Essentially meaning it is absorbed without issue.
Chemisorption, is a kind of absorption involving a chemical reaction, between a surface and the absorbate. The initial contact between the surface and the absorbate creates new types of electric bonds, binding them together. On the other hand, physisorption leaves all absorbates and the surface intact.
Carbon dioxide scrubbing is a general term for a piece of equipment that absorbs CO2 out of the air from various sources. There are numerous methods in which these devices can scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Amine scrubbing is the exact process in which the removal of CO2 is focused on gas and coal fired power plants. This technique is being seriously experimented on to help mitigate climate change.
It has been suggested as a solution to countries struggling to decarbonise their energy grid. They could theoretically keep using coal or gas and not be contributing as many emissions with this technology, all while investing in renewable or low carbon energy.
This technology works with the use of Amines. Amnies are compounds that contain a basic nitrogen atom, with a lone pair. Cold solutions of these organic compounds bind to CO2, taking it out of the air.
How viable is carbon recapture?
The answer to this varies and differs drastically depending on who you ask. Some claim that this process is the ‘silver bullet’ to climate change, while others suggest that carbon recapture will not mitigate climate change on its own. It is a viable solution to climate change, but it is not a magical technology that will entirely solve the climate crisis.
At least this is how it stands at the moment; it could very well be a ‘magic bullet’ or a great help toward taking climate action in the future.
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