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MIT engineers devise new way to remove carbon dioxide from the air

It works like a high-tech catalytic converter and could be a game changer for clean air.

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This graphic, with a flow of air in blue and carbon dioxide in red, demonstrates how the device works.

MIT

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology may have developed a new weapon in the fight against climate change. Researchers have created a new system for removing carbon dioxide from a stream of air that can work at almost any concentration level, from power plant emissions to open air, according to MIT News.

MIT said the new system requires less energy and money to operate than other methods, which require higher concentrations, such as those found in the flue emissions from fossil fuel-based power plants.

The device at the heart of the system behaves like a large battery. It absorbs carbon dioxide from a gas stream that passes over its electrodes as it's being charged up. It then blows out the pure carbon dioxide as it discharges.

The system's inner workings are detailed further by the researchers -- MIT postdoc Sahag Voskian and professor T. Alan Hatton -- in a paper called Faradaic Electro-swing Reactive Adsorption for CO2 Capture, which was published this month in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. 

"In my laboratories, we have been striving to develop new technologies to tackle a range of environmental issues that avoid the need for thermal energy sources, changes in system pressure or addition of chemicals to complete the separation and release cycles," Hatton told MIT News. "This carbon dioxide capture technology is a clear demonstration of the power of electrochemical approaches that require only small swings in voltage to drive the separations."

While operating, the device alternates between charging and discharging. During a charging cycle, fresh air blows through the system. During discharging, concentrated carbon dioxide blows through.

The research team has launched a company called Verdox to commercialize the system, which could have applications for the bottling of soft drinks and the creation of plant food.

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