Scientists unveil a new strategy for recycling carbon to combat climate change

Closing the carbon cycle needs a multifaceted approach that bridges basic science and use-inspired research. Credit: Cortland Johnson/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

In our world today, many things like cars and home heating systems are being changed to use clean electricity from things like the sun and wind.

But not everything can stop using carbon, a key ingredient in products like plastics.

To tackle this issue, a group of top scientists, led by Wendy Shaw from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, have created a plan to help parts of our economy that are tough to change.

The plan involves finding new types of fuel that don’t use carbon and discovering ways to use carbon sources that don’t come from fossil fuels like oil and gas.

The idea is to keep using the same carbon in different ways over and over again.

This means carbon won’t be just thrown away after one use but will be part of a cycle, helping us move towards zero carbon emissions.

For example, old plastic could be turned into new types of plastic instead of being thrown out. This reuse of carbon is crucial for industries that are hard to change, like air travel and shipping.

The project began with a workshop called “Closing the Carbon Cycle,” where experts from several national laboratories like Ames, Argonne, and Oak Ridge came together.

These experts, including Shaw, James Morris, and others, shared ideas on how to keep carbon in use by recycling it.

Paul Kearns, the director at Argonne, stressed the importance of developing technologies that recycle carbon, which will help make energy cleaner and support a future where we use resources more wisely.

The scientists are also looking at using hydrogen and ammonia as clean fuels. However, there are challenges, like the cost of storing and moving hydrogen, which they are working to solve. Making hydrogen cheaply and safely could change the way we use energy.

The plan also suggests using different sources of carbon, like plants, food waste, and old plastics. Turning these materials back into useful products is a big part of the plan, and it requires new ways to separate and change them without creating more waste.

The goal is to see carbon as something valuable that should be saved and reused, not just used once and thrown away. This could change how we make and use materials, leading to new jobs and better ways of managing our resources.

In conclusion, this plan by Shaw and her team offers a hopeful vision of using carbon wisely and keeping our planet cleaner for the future. This roadmap aims to create a world where nothing is wasted and everything is valued—a truly sustainable future.