– You know what we can and can’t put up as far as pictures. I know we can’t use the eyeball picture, but the diagram one, I don’t know about, I couldn’t find what TCM was

There may be new hope on the horizon for the combat against rising CO₂ emissions and global warming. Research published this week in the journal Catalysis Science and Technology, shows how sea urchins employ quantities of nickel to metabolize CO₂ in water. The byproduct, calcium carbonate, essentially chalk, is what is makes up the shells of shellfish, as well as eggshells, and coral. It is estimated that stored within the earth’s crust, 4% of which is calcium carbonate, is roughly 1.5 billion metric tons of  CO₂.

Arch2o CO₂ Reduction, Urchin Style  Gaurav Bhaduri, Newcastle University - 3

Courtesy of Gaurav Bhaduri, Newcastle University

The team from Newcastle developed nickel nanoparticles which are suspended in water. These tiny particles have a very great amount of surface area in relation to their size, which enables them to trap CO₂ as it is bubbled through the solution. Gaurav Bhaduri, the PhD candidate who is the lead author of the research, states that,

The beauty of a nickel catalyst is that it carries on working regardless of the pH….It is also very cheap, a thousand times cheaper than carbon anhydrase. And the by-product – the carbonate – is useful and not damaging to the environment.

Arch2o CO₂ Reduction, Urchin Style  Gaurav Bhaduri, Newcastle University - 2

Courtesy of Gaurav Bhaduri, Newcastle University

The technique mentioned above, carbon anhydrase, is an existing technique for carbon-capture, by way of enzyme. Requiring controlled conditions and significant energy input, it is a rather expensive process. And the byproduct, CO₂ gas, must still be pumped into old oil wells and underground rock formations. That this is an unsustainable practice is a given, geological destabilization and gas leakage being only a few of the possible downsides. With the practice of nickel-aided capture, the byproduct is a stable material- useful in many things, from cement to sidewalk chalk.

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