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Power News Science Technology

Scientists Have Created Batteries Using Carbon Dioxide From Atmosphere (thelatestnews.com) 63

An anonymous reader writes: While climate change talks progress on how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, an interdisciplinary team of scientists have worked out a way to reduce carbon dioxide already existing in the atmosphere. The focus is on the batteries used by electric automobiles. Researchers have found out that the graphite electrodes in the lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with carbon electrodes sourced from atmospheric carbon dioxide. The experiment started with the use of a solar-thermal electrochemical process (STEP) to convert carbon dioxide into carbon. STEP uses solar energy as the source of the thermal and electrical energy required for the dissolution of the atmospheric carbon dioxide to its constituent elements -- carbon and oxygen. The team then used the carbon generated to create carbon nanotubes/nanofibers. They then incorporated these carbon nanotubes into lithium-ion batteries by using them as the positive electrode or anode. While the carbon is used in the manufacture of carbon nanotubes, the oxygen is channeled back to the generator to boost the combustion efficiency of the generator. The increased efficiency will balance the electricity consumption of STEP. In the end, the fossil fuel electrical power plant could have zero net carbon dioxide emissions.
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Scientists Have Created Batteries Using Carbon Dioxide From Atmosphere

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  • How much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 04, 2016 @07:59PM (#51640635)

    So, how many tons of additional CO2 were released in order to remove a tiny bit of CO2 from the atmosphere?

    • Re:How much? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by VernonNemitz ( 581327 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @08:45PM (#51640847) Journal
      "In the end, the fossil fuel electrical power plant could have zero net carbon dioxide emissions."
      Looks to me that in the end it will actually be solar power replacing fossil-fuel power.
    • So, how many tons of additional CO2 were released in order to remove a tiny bit of CO2 from the atmosphere?

      According to TFA, the process is solar. Solar processes are automatically exempt from any quibbles over land usage, maintenance requirements, useful life, or carbon generated by mining and manufacturing. Such objections may only be raised if someone mentions nuclear.

      • Over the 15-20 year lifespan of solar. Even the land usage and manufacturing carbon footprint is minimal compared to coal.

        Also if every home that could had a solar panel that provided just 30% of its electrical needs we could turn off the coal plants entirely.

        • Re:How much? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @09:42PM (#51641209)

          Rooftop solar does a good job of zeroing out the power usage of the single-family home under it, but what happens when those solar panels are on the minuscule roof of a high-rise apartment complex?

          And most especially, what happens when your country wants to smelt steel? I suppose you can outsource all the steel production to a nuclear country like South Korea.

      • by pla ( 258480 )
        Solar processes are automatically exempt from any quibbles over land usage

        Land usage... You mean like Bagger 288 eating whole towns at a time, and fuck the residents because MINERAL RIGHTS, BITCH?

        maintenance requirements

        Yeah, hosing those bad-boys off and giving 'em a quick wipe a couple times a year really ruins 15 minutes on a nice weekend.

        useful life

        You've got me there. Power plants just run for decades without having any major components replaced on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the bearing
        • I had to look that up, but apparently the Bagger 288 is for mining COAL. Most especially, for use in the two enormous lignite strip mines that Germany intends to replace its nuclear baseload with. Whatever the German Energiewende is supposed to prove in the long term, it's nothing to do with reducing carbon.

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          Bagger 288 eating whole towns at a time

          Won't somebody think of the poor excavator? I mean the way it chokes and gags every time a town goes down the wrong way is just heartbreaking.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well presumably 4.3 kilos of CO2 would be removed from the atmosphere for every kilo of battery produced, given that CO2 is roughly 23% carbon by weight and 77% oxygen. You'd need to make a lot of batteries to do any kind of significant offset of 40 billion tons of CO2 human activities release into the atmosphere every year. Somehow I can't see us neutralizing our carbon emissions by turning them into 9.2 billion tons of batteries. You might as well try some other kind of sequestration.

      So this process

      • by jrumney ( 197329 )
        This, and if we start making any significant difference by any scheme to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, I can see it quickly becoming a dependence, where we need to take ever increasing amounts out to keep our junky planet from slipping into decline, and the further it goes, the harder the withdrawal symptoms will get.
  • by Hussman32 ( 751772 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @08:14PM (#51640697)

    If they are going to reduce carbon dioxide to carbon and oxygen, then at a minimum they will need to add -394.39 kJ/mol of CO2 to the system because of the Gibbs Free Energy of Formation [wikipedia.org], which would yield 12 grams of carbon. and 32 grams of oxygen.

    If we're looking at replacing one metric ton of carbon per hour, then this process would need 1,000,000/12 = 83,333 moles carbon*393 kJ/3600 seconds hour = 9.1 MW of energy minimum, assuming 30% efficiency, would yield the need for 30 MW of solar panels. At 5 acres per megawatt, they would need 150 acres of land.

    Again, trees look like the better option for carbon removal.

    • by Mostly a lurker ( 634878 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @08:20PM (#51640715)

      I have not checked your math, but I assume you are correct. There is one flaw in your logic, however. Batteries do not grow on trees.

      • My math is probably off in a million different ways, but there must be better ways to get carbon nanofibers than this process. Cool science, but the implementation wouldn't work.

      • In a sense trees are nature's batteries.

        Tree absorbs carbon during its lifecycle. Tree matures, the wood is harvested and sold to a restaurant that cooks you a pizza in a wood-fired oven. CO2 is released and absorbed by the forest and the charcoal is buried to improve soil quality (terra preta)

        • by Anonymous Coward

          OK, I want to understand this correctly...

          We can solve global warming by going on an entirely pizza diet?

          • Sort of but not really. Not all pizza makers use wood fired ovens and the oil from teenager zits would likely clog up the sewers and catch fire rereleasing much of that carbon.

      • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @10:37PM (#51641517)
        His math is right. The bulk of the energy release when creating CO2 is from the step going from atomic carbon and atomic oxygen (dG = 0).to CO2 (dG = -394.4 kJ/mol), not the decomposition of for example CH4 (methane, dG = -50.8 kJ/mol). In fact it would take more energy to go from CO2 to atomic carbon and oxygen, than was originally released when you burned the CH4.

        Basically, this process amounts to you taking the exhaust and soot from someone else burning a tree, then you burn 2-3 trees to generate enough energy to convert that soot and CO2 back into its atomic constitutents, then you convert it into a battery. So yeah batteries don't grow on trees, but it would take less energy to make the battery starting with the tree than what these guys are doing.

        CO2 and H2O aren't just byproducts of chemical reactions which can be converted into C, H2, and O2 if you "just" knock the atoms apart. They sit very far down the energy potential well. All the energy that you get when you burn fossil fuels comes from lowering the C, H, and O down the energy potential well (creating CO2 and H2O in the process). Decomposing them back into their constituent atoms (knocking the atoms apart) requires pumping an equivalent amount of energy back into them.

        Factor in inefficiencies and you're usually looking at having to put 2-3x as much energy in as you originally got out when you burned the fossil fuel. At that point you're better off just using that energy directly as electricity to power society - prevent the fossil fuel from being burned in the first place, instead of trying to uncreate the CO2 that was formed from burning the fossil fuel.
      • by Dantoo ( 176555 )

        They could though. Instead of getting the carbon from an expensive solar plant why not use an inexpensive solar plant - like a tree?

        Plant tree. Grow tree. Convert tree to charcoal. Make battery. Plant tree. Seems simple from my uncaring and uninformed desktop position.

    • Why extract from the atmosphere? Just use plain old dirty coal mines, but instead of burning it make a battery element out of it. Oh wait, that's how it's done already, and it's obviously evil because... something something Al Gore.

    • by fizzup ( 788545 )

      You are 100% right, but one should add that removing one tonne of carbon removes 3.7 (=44/12) tonnes of carbon dioxide.

    • by fizzup ( 788545 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @08:46PM (#51640859)

      Again, trees look like the better option for carbon removal.

      Let's see!

      According to these guys [arborenvir...liance.com], a tree removes about 22kg of co2 per year. How much space does a tree take? I would guess about 10 square meters. It depends a bit on the tree, I guess. 150 acres is 600,000 square meters, or about 60,000 trees.

      There are about 8,800 hours in a year, so we can now estimate the removal rate of carbon dioxide in metric tonnes per hour for a forest. Whee!

      0.15 tonnes per hour = (60,000 trees x 22 kg/tree-year) / (8,800 hours/year * 1000 kg/tonne)

      Your one tonne of carbon represents 3.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Under the assumptions of your post (which I'm a little unsure of), this proposal is almost 25 times as effective as a forest!

      • If this machine were solar powered, it would run on average 6 hours a day, so we're down to 4 times as effective as a tree. Add in the inevitable inefficiencies of the process (cleaning, outages, etc), and I'm betting on the trees again.

    • Again, trees look like the better option for carbon removal.

      Trees aren't very efficient at converting energy. Solar panels are much better. The trick, however, is not use electricity to sequester carbon (which is inefficient), but to use solar to replace coal fired plants.

  • Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @08:21PM (#51640721) Homepage Journal

    Researchers have found out that the graphite electrodes in the lithium-ion batteries could be replaced with carbon electrodes sourced from atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Why? What's the benefit of getting the carbon from the atmosphere, as opposed to from less energy-intensive sources? Especially since a large proportion of our energy sources put carbon into the atmosphere.

    • Why? What's the benefit of getting the carbon from the atmosphere, as opposed to from less energy-intensive sources?

      You get much better press.

  • where it becomes CO2 again?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The gas-powered generator efficiency increase proposed at the end is a completely different proposal than the battery manufactury (which doesn't involve anything besides solar generated heat and electricity.) Sometimes it's worth while reading every bit of an article, even if you get turned off by the author speaking as if carbon nanotubes just got invented just now by this project by the fifth paragraph.

  • In the end, the fossil fuel electrical power plant could have zero net carbon dioxide emissions.

    Uh, so... does this mean coal-burning power stations will be churning out tons of carbon electrodes and we'll end up with a mountain of lithium batteries?

    I really have no idea what's going on.

    • Until they start bitching about a lithium shortage.

      • With all the depressed people in society can't they just 'mine' the lithium from waste treatment plants using osmosis?

      • by dbIII ( 701233 )
        On what planet? There are plenty of salt lakes, including the biggest one on the planet, that are full of it. That's without even having to crunch up rock or get it out of seawater.
    • They use solar power to create the carbon nanotubes using CO2 from the atmosphere. This creates oxygen which could be released into the atmosphere or compressed and sold into industry. But they are suggesting putting the plant next to a fossil fuel electrical plant and piping the oxygen gas into the combustion chamber to increase the efficiency of the burn process.

      Of course:
      - If you are going to use CO2 why not just use the CO2 from the emissions from the power plant instead of the atmosphere? It would be a

  • Source? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday March 04, 2016 @09:32PM (#51641137) Journal

    Before we get too far into the celebration over the fact that we'll be able to use all the fossil fuels forever and there will never be a downside, I'm just curious. Does anyone know anything about the website that is the source for this story? thelatestnews.com, it's called and it looks a little weird. There isn't a single link in the actual article to anything related to the actual scientists or anything published about this work. Just a YouTube video. I also found this story in the "Business" section of the site:

    http://www.thelatestnews.com/b... [thelatestnews.com]

    They start by saying in the title that this "bitwalking" thing is financial nonsense, but by the end of the article, they're saying why they think it's a brilliant idea.

    I'm just a little concerned about who is behind this news site, but then I'm naturally suspicious.

  • Burn carbon in a base load generating plant. Capture the CO2 and store in a big tank. When the sun comes out, reduce the CO2 to carbon using this STEP process. Throw the carbon into a big pile and shovel it into the powerplant as needed for electrical power independent of short term solar availability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is just sickening. Every.Single.Fucking.Day. 'Climate change' bullshit, as if repeating it enough times makes it true.


  • The buzzword here is that they use solar power to extract and convert CO2. Sounds nice for those not into the pysics of energy conversion and chemistry.

    It is a lot more efficient to use the solar power to reduce CO2 emissions by replacing the burning of fossile fuel with solar energy. Pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere is extremely costly on the energy balance, and should be avoided, except in the form of planting some trees.

Scientists will study your brain to learn more about your distant cousin, Man.