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Surprising Science

New Material Soaks Up CO2

A team of scientists, including chemistry Nobel Laureate George Olah, have turned to solid materials based on polyethylenimine to capture carbon from smokestacks and the open air.

What’s the Latest Development?

A new solid material based on polyethylenimine could be the most effective tool yet in keeping excess carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere. Created by a team of scientists that included chemistry Nobel Laureate George Olah, the new solid is derived from a readily available and inexpensive polymeric material and can be used in factory smokestacks as well as in the open air. When tested, the inexpensive materials “achieved some of the highest carbon dioxide removal rates ever reported for humid air.”

What’s the Big Idea?

The polymeric technology could be most effective in small CO2 sources like home heaters and car exhausts, which represent about half of total CO2 emissions related to human activity. Once the CO2 is captured, it can be extracted from the material and used to create other substances or permanently isolated and removed from the environment. The material itself can be reused many times without loosing efficiency, said the team of scientists, who also warned that current methods of carbon capture are too energy intensive.

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