Scientists of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn have patented a method of neutralizing carbon dioxide. Their project is very likely to be implemented, but a pilot installation is needed and the university does not have funds for that. The inventors hope their concept will gain interest from industrial or energy companies or municipal firms. This may turn out to be a very good investment. The side product of the process is… clean oxygen!
Three scientists from the Department of Environmental Engineering of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, Prof. Mirosław Krzemieniewski, Prof. Marcin Zieliński and Prof. Marcin Dębowski, have recently patented, in Poland and Europe, a device for intensive absorption of CO2. The university has also filed patent motions in China and Russia and several European countries. The inventors’ aim is to commercialize their patent.
What inspired them? Today’s most common method of cutting CO2 emission is to store carbon dioxide in underground spaces emptied by extracting natural gas. This is a costly and uncertain process. There is no guarantee that tectonic plate movements will not create cracks in the earth shell and release CO2 back into the atmosphere. CO2 is 1.5 times heavier than air so it would accumulate around the leak causing all living organisms, including human, to die. There have been solutions involving containers with CO2 being dumped in oceans, but this method is not safe, either.
In 1970s many American scientists attempted to use algae to capture CO2. This solution did work but alga plantations required vast areas of land. Even in the US, where open spaces are abundant, this method was given up. However, the researchers at the Olsztyn University became interested in the American solution and it looks they have made a breakthrough.
“We have developed a method of concentrating algae. Algae capturing CO2 in the US created a suspension in the reactors. We have made a concentrate out of them and developed a method of putting them into capsules made of organic gel. Therefore, installations based on our concept do not need to be large”, says Prof. Mirosław Krzemieniewski, head of the research team.
Algae are not very demanding – for living they just need heat, light, CO2 and food. How to feed them? This has been common knowledge for years. CO2 and heat may be delivered via a dedicated installation. What about light? Fibre optic cables are a solution to this problem. Metabolism of algae grown in this way produces clean oxygen. The surplus of algae that will grow in the oxygen farm may be used as raw material for making organic fertilizer, animal feed or oil.
An experimental installation is working in a laboratory. Both Polish and European patent offices have registered the patent. Is it possible to implement the concept on a larger scale? The opportunity is certainly there but a running pilot installation is a prerequisite, but the university cannot afford one. The scientists are hoping to gain some interest from the business – coal power plants, heating plants. “We believe that our oxygen production project will become as common as waste water treatment plants”, says Prof. Marcin Zieliński.
According to various scientific estimates water vapour is the most important gas absorbing heat for the Earth. Along with clouds it accounts for 66 to 85 per cent of the greenhouse effect. CO2 accounts for “only” 9-25 per cent of the effect. However, today’s concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere has been the highest since 650 thousand years ago. This is causing the climate getting warmer and warmer. The Earth has already experienced such a phenomenon but then it was caused by natural factors, not by humans releasing more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. For numerous species of plants and animals, global warming is the definite end.
Source: Portal Komunalny