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27 November 2013 12:59 pm ,
Vol. 342 ,
The new head of the National Center for Science Education promises to "fight the good fight" against attacks on...
Analyses of the H7N9 strains isolated from four new cases show that the virus is evolving rapidly, heightening anxiety...
In 2009, Jack Szostak shared a Nobel Prize for his part in discovering the role of telomeres, the end bits of...
Science has exposed a thriving academic black market in China involving shady agencies, corrupt scientists, and...
Paper-selling agencies flourish in the aura of reputable businesses. For some scientists, it may be difficult to tell...
Featuring the first lunar rover in 40 years, Chang'e-3 is seen as an important milestone on China's quest to send a...
Data collected by satellites and floating probes have chronicled a 2-decade rise in the temperature and thickness of a...
Cholesterol, the artery-clogging molecule that contributes to cardiovascular disease, has another nasty trick up its...
- 27 November 2013 12:59 pm , Vol. 342 , #6162
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ScienceShot: A Smokestack's Hidden Treasure
23 July 2013 12:00 pm
The CO2-ridden plumes rising from industrial smokestacks and power plants may be warming the planet, but they could also be a new source of electrical power. Researchers have developed a two-stage process to harvest some of the chemical energy in carbon dioxide emissions, using a device called a capacitive electrochemical cell. Built roughly like a battery, the cell has two electrodes—one surrounded by a membrane that allows hydrogen ions to flow in and out, and the other that does the same with bicarbonate ions, produced when carbon dioxide is bubbled through water. In the first stage of the process, researchers pump water flushed with carbon dioxide through the cell, which causes the hydrogen and carbonate ions to flow into their respective electrodes—a separation of ions that charges the cell and can drive an electrical current. (In a full-scale system, carbon dioxide will be pulled from smokestacks, whose emissions typically include between 5% and 20% of the greenhouse gas.) Once the electrodes have absorbed as many ions as they can, the researchers then begin to pump air-bubbled water through the cell—a process that drives the ions out of the electrodes and back into the cell. By constantly alternating between these two stages, the cell can produce electrical power, the team reports online today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. By tapping into existing carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants, industrial smokestacks, and residential heating worldwide, the new process could generate about 1570 terawatt-hours of power each year—about 400 times that produced by Hoover Dam, all without adding to global carbon dioxide emissions