Scientists unveil groundbreaking method to clean the air with Earth’s heat

Two potential system configurations for DACCUS: heat system and heat and power system. Credit: Environmental Research Letters (2023).

In an exciting breakthrough, scientists have come up with a new way to clean the air of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main culprit behind climate change.

This method doesn’t just grab CO2 from the air; it powers itself with the heat from beneath our feet, using geothermal energy.

This approach, detailed in the Environmental Research Letters journal, could be a game-changer in our fight against global warming.

Carbon dioxide is released whenever we use fossil fuels for heating our homes, driving our cars, or powering our cities.

It’s a big part of why our planet is getting warmer. To tackle this issue, researchers have been working on ways to capture this CO2 either right where it’s emitted or directly from the air.

But these methods usually need a lot of energy, and if we’re not careful, they could end up doing more harm than good.

Enter Martina Leveni from The Ohio State University and her team, who thought, “Why not use the Earth’s own heat to power the process?”

They combined two technologies: one that captures CO2 directly from the air and another that uses the Earth’s geothermal energy.

Geothermal energy comes from the natural heat deep inside the Earth. By tapping into this clean and abundant energy source, the researchers’ method—named Direct Air CO2 Capture with CO2 Utilization and Storage (DACCUS)—can operate without adding extra CO2 into the atmosphere.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The system captures CO2 from the air.
  2. It then stores this CO2 in deep underground layers filled with saltwater, known as saline aquifers.
  3. A part of the captured CO2 is used to help bring up the Earth’s heat to the surface.
  4. This heat can be turned into electricity or used directly to keep the system running.

What’s really clever about this setup is that it solves two problems at once: it removes harmful CO2 from the air and produces renewable energy without further polluting the environment.

Jeff Bielicki, a co-author of the study, points out that geothermal energy is already a clean source of power. But by using CO2 in the process, their method has an even lower impact on the planet. This is because the CO2, which would otherwise contribute to global warming, is put to good use.

This innovative approach could mean big things for tackling climate change. It offers a way to cut down on CO2 levels in the atmosphere while providing a sustainable energy source. Plus, it’s especially useful for dealing with emissions that are tough to reduce through other means.

In short, by combining the power of the air and the heat from beneath our feet, researchers are paving the way for a cleaner, cooler planet.

This method promises to be an effective tool in our arsenal against climate change, offering hope for a more sustainable future.