In the face of increasing carbon dioxide levels in the ocean, which threaten coral reefs and marine ecosystems due to acidification, a novel technology has emerged. This technology employs aqueous sodium hydroxide and sodium carbonate to extract carbon dioxide from seawater, offering a potential solution to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Years of Dedication to a Sustainable Solution
Katherine Hornbostel, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Pittsburgh’s Swanson School of Engineering, devoted years of rigorous experimentation to develop this groundbreaking technology. Her journey began five years ago when the research landscape had limited focus and funding for addressing oceanic carbon dioxide accumulation.
Two Innovative Models for Carbon Capture
This pioneering solution consists of two distinct models, each designed to efficiently capture carbon dioxide from ocean water. The first model utilizes microencapsulated solvents containing sodium carbonate, while the second employs hollow fibre membrane contactors infused with sodium hydroxide. Although differing in geometry, both models share the same fundamental function.
In the first model, Hornbostel collaborated with Assistant Professor Tagbo Niepa from Swanson’s Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Together, they harnessed the concept of microencapsulation to create tiny capsules resembling caviar beads. These capsules encapsulate a sodium carbonate solution, providing ideal reaction sites for carbon dioxide. The abundance of contact points within capillary tubes ensures efficient carbon dioxide transfer from seawater to the encapsulated solution.
Sustainable Regeneration for Ongoing Impact
An essential feature of this technology is its regenerative capability. The sodium carbonate capsules can be rejuvenated through a steaming process at temperatures ranging from 100 to 120 degrees Celsius. This regeneration not only releases the captured carbon dioxide for storage but also enables the reused capsules to continue their vital role in future carbon capture cycles.
In a world grappling with the consequences of climate change, the innovative approach by Hornbostel and Niepa offers hope. By harnessing the power of aqueous sodium hydroxide and sodium carbonate, their technology not only counters ocean acidification but also contributes to the global effort to combat rising carbon dioxide levels and mitigate the impacts of climate change on our oceans.