Powering Net Zero Commitments

The war against climate change is one that has been quite difficult, however, one that researchers and scientists are intent on winning. Numerous pushes for clean energy as well as environmentally sustainable practices on a societal, organisational and individual level have caused numerous nations to take serious considerations to reduce their carbon emissions. The US, at the moment currently takes the lead in lowering carbon dioxide output, with an annual decrease of 1.4% recorded over the last 10 years.

Nevertheless, overall global CO2 emissions still rise. 2018, according to NASA, was the 4th warmest year since 1880. This statistic highlights the continuing trend of the earth’s warmest years being the last 5 years. Climate change is something that hangs over the world, however, it is evident that strides have been made to correct this problem. Researchers, in particular, have been investigating numerous nanomaterials as the basis to develop technologies which can combat the effects of climate change. The first among these nanomaterials is graphene.

Graphene is a super-thin layer of graphite and its research has been on the rise over the last 10 years, after having been formally discovered by scientist Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim in 2004. It has incredible capabilities; for one, it is a single atomic layer in thickness, however, it is stronger than steel, able to conduct heat better than copper, can conduct electricity better than silicon and has numerous properties that have causes scientist all over to call it “the wonder material.”

Due to its thin design, graphene makes the ideal material to develop membranes for gas and chemical filtration, and its use could result in significant reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the primary gases responsible for climate change. Graphene is typically impermeable to all standard gases, however, certain researchers have been able to discover a way to use this characteristic to their advantage.

Experiments conducted by graduate students and the engineering faculty at the University of Colorado Boulder demonstrated that graphene membranes can separate gas molecules using ultraviolet light-induced oxidative “etching” to make tiny pores which selectively allowed for sieving of certain gases based on their size. According to the researchers involved, graphene can work efficiently as a membrane because it is durable, and it does not require too much energy to pass molecules through it.

Climate change researchers hope that this discovery could spur the development of other energy-efficient membranes which can be used in scenarios like power plants, where graphene membranes can filter and reduce carbon emissions from exhaust pipes.

Scientists at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum and the Lille University of Science and Technology in France have also developed a nanomaterial which is not only able to filter CO2 but also able to harvest it to be utilised in other areas. This nano-carbon dioxide harvester is constructed from spheres of magnetite and copper-zinc oxide and then wrapped in a graphene oxide membrane to selectively gather carbon dioxide. This harvester then uses sunlight and water to convert the harvested CO2 into methanol which is then used in a variety of purposes such as an antifreeze agent, fuel, or a solvent used to make adhesives, dyes and inks.

Once the obstacles that hamper large-scale production of graphene have been surmounted, the world could have a powerful weapon among its arsenal in the war to save the planet. Graphene’s unique ability to lower carbon emissions and transform it into a fuel source, makes it especially qualified to heal the planet. While there might not be a short term solution to reversing climate change, any advancement that helps tilt the odds in the favour of the planet is definitely worth consideration. As reported by CEOWORLD Magazine 

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