Carbon dioxide Scientists have found a way to make their asphalt-based sorbents better at capturing carbon dioxide from gas wells: Adding water.

The lab of chemist James Tour, a chair in chemistry as well as a professor of computer science and of materials science and nanoengineering at Rice University, discovered that treating grains of inexpensive Gilsonite asphalt with water allows the material to adsorb more than two times its weight in the greenhouse gas. The treated asphalt selects carbon dioxide over valuable methane at a ratio of more than 200-to-1.

The material performs well at ambient temperatures and under the pressures typically found at wellheads. When the pressure abates, the material releases the carbon dioxide, which can then be stored, sold for other industrial uses, or pumped back downhole.

Natural gas at the wellhead typically contains between 3 and 7 percent carbon dioxide, but at some locations may contain up to 70 percent. Oil and gas producers traditionally use one of two strategies to sequester carbon dioxide: physically through the use of membranes or solid sorbents like zeolites or porous carbons, or chemically through filtering with liquid amine, a derivative of ammonia.


Carbon dioxideWhile pursing work on the highly desirable but technically challenging lithium-air battery, researchers unexpectedly discovered a new way to capture and store carbon dioxide. Upon creating a design for a lithium-CO2 battery, the research team found a way to isolate solid carbon dust from gaseous carbon dioxide, all while being able to separate oxygen.

As global industry, technology, and transportation grows, the consumption of fossil fuels has increased. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the burning of petroleum-based products has resulted in 6,587 million of metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the environment in 2015. The emission of greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide trap heat in the atmosphere, which researches have linked the global warming. Because of this, capturing and converting carbon emissions has become a highly researched area.

“The problem with most physical and chemical pathways for CO2 fixation is that their products are gases and liquids that need to be further liquefied or compressed, and that inevitably leads to additional energy consumption and even more CO2 emissions,” says Haoshen Zhou, senior author of the recently published research. “Instead, we are demonstrating an electrochemical strategy for CO2 fixation that yields solid carbon products, as well as a lithium-CO2 battery that can provide the energy necessary for that process.”


Carbon dioxideThe global development of industry, technology, and the transportation sector has resulted in massive consumption of fossil fuels. As these fuels are burned, emissions are released—namely carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, combustion of petroleum-based products resulted in 6,587 million metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the environment in 2015. But what if we could capture the greenhouse gas and not only convert it, but potentially make a huge profit?

That’s exactly what ECS member Stuart Licht is looking to do.

In a new study, Licht and his team demonstrate using carbon dioxide and solar thermal energy to produce high yields of millimeter-lengths carbon nanotube (CNT) wool at a cost of $660 per ton. According to marketplace values, these CNTs, which have applications ranging from textiles to cement, could then be sold for up to $400,000 per ton.

“We have introduced a new class of materials called ‘Carbon Nanotube Wool,’ which are the first CNTs that can be directly woven into a cloth, as they are of macroscopic length and are cheap to produce,” Licht, a chemistry professor at George Washington University, tells “The sole reactant to produce the CNT wools is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.”


Carbon dioxideChemists have engineered a molecule that uses light or electricity to convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide—a carbon-neutral fuel source—more efficiently than any other method of “carbon reduction.”

“If you can create an efficient enough molecule for this reaction, it will produce energy that is free and storable in the form of fuels,” says study leader and Liang-shi Li, associate professor in the chemistry department at Indiana University Bloomington. “This study is a major leap in that direction.”

Burning fuel—such as carbon monoxide—produces carbon dioxide and releases energy. Turning carbon dioxide back into fuel requires at least the same amount of energy. A major goal among scientists has been decreasing the excess energy needed.

This is exactly what Li’s molecule achieves: requiring the least amount of energy reported thus far to drive the formation of carbon monoxide. The molecule—a nanographene-rhenium complex connected via an organic compound known as bipyridine—triggers a highly efficient reaction that converts carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide.

The ability to efficiently and exclusively create carbon monoxide is significant due to the molecule’s versatility.


Renewable liquid fuelA team of researchers from Texas A&M University is looking to take the negative impact of excessive levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and turn it into a positive with renewable hydrocarbon fuels.

Greenhouse gasses trap heat in the atmosphere and therefore impact global temperatures, making the planet warmer. Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, is emitted into the atmosphere upon burning fossil fuels, solid waste, and wood products, and makes up 81 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

“We’re essentially trying to convert CO2 and water, with the use of the sun, into solar fuels in a process called artificial photosynthesis,” says Ying Li, principal investigator and ECS member. “In this process, the photo-catalyst material has some unique properties and acts as a semiconductor, absorbing the sunlight which excites the electrons in the semiconductor and gives them the electric potential to reduce water and CO2 into carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which together can be converted to liquid hydrocarbon fuels.”

This from Texas A&M University:

The first step of the process involves capturing CO2 from emissions sources such as power plants that contribute to one-third of the global carbon emissions. As of yet, there is no technology capable of capturing the CO2, and at the same time re-converting it back into a fuel source that isn’t expensive. The material, which is a hybrid of titanium oxide and magnesium oxide, uses the magnesium oxide to absorb the CO2 and the titanium oxide to act as the photo-catalyst, generating electrons through sunlight that interact with the absorbed CO2 and water to generate the fuel.


By: Pep Canadell, CSIRO; Corinne Le Quéré, University of East Anglia; Glen Peters, Center for International Climate and Environment Research – Oslo, and Rob Jackson, Stanford University

Carbon dioxideFor the third year in a row, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry have barely grown, while the global economy has continued to grow strongly. This level of decoupling of carbon emissions from global economic growth is unprecedented.

Global CO₂ emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels and industry (including cement production) were 36.3 billion tonnes in 2015, the same as in 2014, and are projected to rise by only 0.2% in 2016 to reach 36.4 billion tonnes. This is a remarkable departure from emissions growth rates of 2.3% for the previous decade, and more than 3% during the 2000s.

Given this good news, we have an extraordinary opportunity to extend the changes that have driven the slowdown and spark the great decline in emissions needed to stabilise the world’s climate.

This result is part of the annual carbon assessment released today by the Global Carbon Project, a global consortium of scientists and think tanks under the umbrella of Future Earth and sponsored by institutions from around the world.


Carbon dioxide emissions account for 80 percent of all greenhouse gases pumped into the environment, totaling in at a staggering 40 tons of CO2 currently emitted from burning fossil fuels. In a response to the high levels of CO2, which have been linked to the accelerating rates in climate change, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called for a 30 percent decrease in emissions of the power sector. Former ECS member Susan Rempe is looking to help the sector achieve that goal through the development of the CO2 Memzyme.

Researchers claim the Memzyme is the only cost-effective way to capture and process CO2. Further, the team states that the Memzyme — which is a membrane with an active layer holding an enzyme — has prefect selectivity.

The development could help capture CO2 from coal-fired power plants and is 10 times thinner than a soap bubble.

Seeing Climate Change in Real Time

IMG_5465_webThe science behind climate change is alarming. Concentrations of greenhouse gases are rising at an alarming rate, land ice is dropping by 258 billion metric tons per year, and every passing year is proving to be the warmest year on record. Even with all of this information, it is difficult for some to grasp the complications climate change is causing due to the fact that an average person’s day-to-day life has remained relatively unharmed.

“You can tell people that all these fossil fuels we’re using and all the CO2 that’s building up in the air is going to cause terrific problems. It’s only going to be when lower Manhattan is underwater that they’re going to start to respond,” said Allen J. Bard, the unofficial father of modern electrochemistry.

What Does Climate Change Look Like?

In order to make the reality of climate change more tangible, scientists with the Department of Energy are launching their SPRUCE (Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change) project to naturally demonstrate what the world could look like if there is no action taken on climate change.


Interface: Korea Section News


Opening of the ECS Korea Section-KIST Joint Symposium on Electrochemical CO2 Conversion in Gwangju, South Korea.

Opening of the ECS Korea Section-KIST Joint Symposium on Electrochemical CO2 Conversion in Gwangju, South Korea.

The Korea Section Symposium (Organizers: Prof. Yung-Eun Sung, Prof. Soo-Kil Kim and Dr. Byoung Koun Min) was held on April 2, 2015 at the Kimdaejung Convention Center in Gwangju, Korea.

This year, the event was held as a Joint Symposium with the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, with the title “ECS Korea Section-KIST Joint Symposium on Electrochemical CO2 Conversion.” It was composed of seven talks on electrocatalysts and systems for electrochemical reduction of CO2.