Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Researchers, Brewers Finding New Ways to Capture, Create with CO2

Researchers and brewers have found new ways to capture carbon and convert it into stone and ink.

Tiger Beer, working alongside Marcel Sydney and MIT spinoff Graviky Labs, has created the first line of ink made from air pollution. Made entirely from emissions captured from vehicle tailpipes, 150 liters (roughly 40 gallons) of Tiger Air-Ink was put in pens, markers and spray cans so that different types of artists could experiment with it.

To create the black goop, Graviky Labs founder Anirudh Sharma and his team created a series of tools that attach to pollution emitters such as tailpipes to capture raw carbon and soot that might escape into the air. The captured substances were then put through a purification process so that they are safe to use, and made into the ink. Tiger then took the product to up-and-coming street artists in Asia, a region facing major pollution concerns.

The technology can be adapted for larger vehicles and vessels, such as cranes and boats, to capture even more pollution. The line of pens and paints is not available for sale yet, but Tiger and Graviky Labs are working to create more Tiger Air-Ink for future projects.

Meanwhile, scientists in Iceland say they have discovered a new way to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into rock. Like many other carbon capture and storage (CCS) pilot projects, this one – called CarbFix – faces high hurdles in terms of costs and technology, however, CarbFix’s latest results are a great step forward towards locking the gas underground forever.

Published in Science, the research shows that injecting CO2 into layers of basalt (dark volcanic rocks underlying Earth’s oceans and parts of some continents) triggers a reaction that rapidly forms new carbonate minerals. The project began back in 2006 when Icelandic, U.S. and French scientists launched the CarbFix experiment 25 kilometers east of Reykjavik, intending to dose Iceland’s abundant underground basalt with CO2 that bubbles from cooling magma underground and is collected at a nearby geothermal power plant.

In 2012, they injected 220 tons of CO2 – with heavy carbon for monitoring and some extra water mixed in – into layers of basalt between 400 and 800 meters below the surface. After about a year and a half, the pump inside a monitoring well kept breaking down, which engineers discovered was due to calcite buildup that bore the heavy carbon tracer that marked it as a product of carbonation. Measurements of dissolved carbon in the groundwater suggested that more than 95% of the injected carbon had already been converted into calcite and other minerals.

The speedy carbonation “means this method could be a viable way to store CO2 underground—permanently, and without risk of leakage,” explained Juerg Matter, a geologist with CarbFix at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.

Bigger field tests are needed, and many challenges remain before the technique could be widely used – not the least of which is a lack of incentive for power companies to incorporate CCS. In the meantime, though, the success is a welcome development.


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