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A cheap battery-like device captures CO2 emissions while charging.

                                  Researchers have developed a low-cost device that selectively captures carbon dioxide gas while charging. ...

                                 

Researchers have developed a low-cost device that selectively captures carbon dioxide gas while charging. Then, when it is emitted, the CO2 can be released in a controlled manner and collected for reuse or responsible disposal. The supercapacitor device, which resembles a rechargeable battery, is the size of a twopenny coin and is partly made from sustainable materials such as coconut shells and seawater.

A supercapacitor designed by researchers at the University of Cambridge could help power carbon capture and storage technology at a lower cost. With approximately 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere each year, solutions are urgently needed to eliminate these emissions and address the climate crisis. Current state-of-the-art carbon capture technologies are energy-intensive and expensive.

A supercapacitor consists of two positively and negatively charged electrodes. In work led by Trevor Binford while he was completing his master's degree at Cambridge, the team tried alternating from negative to positive voltages to extend the charging time of previous experiments. This improves the supercapacitor's ability to capture carbon.

Dr Alexander Forse, from the Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, who led the research, said: "We found that by slowly alternating an electric current between the plates, we could capture twice as much carbon dioxide as before."

"The charging and discharging process of our supercapacitor may use less energy than the amine heating process used in industry today," Forse said. "Our next question will involve investigating the precise mechanisms of carbon dioxide capture and improving them. Then it will be a matter of scaling up."The results are published in the journal Nanoscale.


Supercapacitors are similar to rechargeable batteries, but the main difference is how the two devices store their charge. Batteries use chemical reactions to store and release charge, while supercapacitors do not rely on chemical reactions. Instead, it relies on the movement of electrons between electrodes, so it takes longer to degrade and lasts longer.

"The tradeoff is that supercapacitors can't store as much charge as batteries, but for something like carbon capture, we prioritize durability," said co-author Grace Mapstone. "The best part is that the materials used to make supercapacitors are cheap and plentiful. The electrodes are made of carbon, which comes from discarded coconut shells."We want to use inert materials that are not harmful to the environment, and we need to dispose of them less frequently. For example, carbon dioxide dissolves into a water-based electrolyte that is basically seawater."

However, this supercapacitor does not absorb carbon dioxide spontaneously: it must be charged to absorb carbon dioxide. When the electrodes are charged, the negative plate draws in carbon dioxide gas while ignoring other emissions that don't contribute to climate change, such as oxygen, nitrogen and water. Using this approach, supercapacitors can both capture carbon and store energy.

Co-author Dr Israel Temprano contributed to the project by developing gas analysis techniques for the device. The technology uses a pressure sensor that responds to changes in gas adsorption in an electrochemical device. Temprano's contribution helps narrow down the precise mechanism at play inside the supercapacitor when carbon dioxide is absorbed and released. Understanding these mechanisms, and possible loss and degradation pathways, are all essential before supercapacitors can be scaled up. "This field of research is very new, so the precise mechanisms inside supercapacitors are still unknown," Temprano said.

The research was funded by Dr Forse's Future Leaders Fellowship from the UK's research and innovation program, which aims to develop the next wave of world-class research and innovation.

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