By utilizing regular baking soda that can be found in supermarkets, scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Harvard University, have developed a breakthrough in reducing carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere.
The researchers were able to develop a new kind of media to capture carbon that is made up of core-shell microcapsules, consisting of a polymer shell that is highly permeable. The shell contains a solution of sodium carbonate, which is the main ingredient of baking soda, and it is able to absorb carbon dioxide.
The capsules are able to keep the solution within the core, and allow carbon dioxide to pass through the shell.
Microcapsules have previously been utilized for the controlled delivery and release of substances, such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and food flavoring, and this is the first time that such an approach for carbon capture is being implemented.
The process looks to prevent the release of high quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. However, the current methods for carbon capture, while successful, could have negative effects on the environment due to the usage of caustic fluids such as monoethanolamine.
According to Roger Aines, one of the researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the newly developed method is a marked improvement on the current carbon capture methods in terms of its impact on the environment.
Unlike the caustic fluids, the new method also only reacts with the target gas, which is carbon dioxide.
"Encapsulation allows you to combine the advantages of solid capture media and liquid capture media in the same platform," said study co-author Jennifer Lewis from the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Encapsulation also highly increases the absorption due to higher surface area. The capsules force the baking soda to remain in the form of tiny drops, which are able to react faster with the carbon dioxide as they contact more of the greenhouse gas.
The new process may be designed to work with power plants run by natural gas or coal, or with industrial processes such as the production of cement and steel.
The new technique will also prove to be a sustainable process for carbon capture because sodium carbonate is easily acquired compared to the previously used substances that are required to be made through a complex chemical process. Sodium carbonate can be also repeatedly used, while the previous substances break down only in months or years.