These Tiny Magical Crystal Balls Can Dissolve CO2 and They Just Might Save the World

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For years scientists have been pondering over our CO2 dilemma in an effort to save our planet from crumbling in on itself, combusting out into space, or you know… just becoming so inhospitable that us human-folk can’t survive on it.

And before you go all tree-hugging on me, claiming that those brown yolks sticking out from the ground in your back yard are the best solution to carbon emission problems, I know. It really is the cheapest (and, in all honesty, most complex) solution around – but that doesn’t mean that scientists aren’t still trying to out-do Mother Nature.

That. And trying to counterbalance people’s incessant need to kill our planet by cutting down our trees and driving gas guzzling cars (among a a whole bunch of other things, of course).

Scientists have come up with something particularly interesting in their attempts to combat CO2 emissions – tiny silicon capsules that can suck carbon out of the air faster, cleaner and more efficiently than any other technology out there to date.

The technology behind the capsules, that look a lot like salmon roe, have been detailed in a study Nature Communications, from scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

And what’s the secret? I’ll let you guess – it’s a “soda” that’s not just for baking but can be used for cleaning and plenty of other things too…

Have you guessed it?


Ok, I’m bad at clues.

Baking soda!!! Well technically it’s bicarbonate, but that’s the main ingredient so it totally counts.

Scientists have known that bicarbonate can dissolve CO2 for a long time but the reaction has never been sufficient enough for it be considered effective on an industrial scale.

Until now.

The new research shows that if the capsules were made at extremely tiny scales then the surface area will be large enough for the neutralizing material to make a significant impact.

But once all the CO2 is absorbed, what are we supposed to do with it?

Good question.

They don’t know yet.

Nor have the capsules been field tested, so it could be years before we see them on the market – and that’s only if they withstand the rigorous testing. However, time is running out and we’re yet to see many other feasible carbon capture solutions.

As Stuart Haszeldine, a professor at the University of Ediburgh told Quartz: “One of the big barriers for carbon capture and storage is the cost, which right now is about $100 for a ton of carbon. That’s got to come down by about half to get commercially competitive with other forms of low-carbon energy,” such as natural gas.

What do you think? Will these capsules be the solution to our C02 problems, or do our answers lie closer to home?

  • Sarah Burke

    Sarah is a graduate of the University of College Dublin. After receiving her MA in Gender, Sexuality and Culture, she taught High-school English and History for three years before moving to Vancouver to pursue a career in writing. In her spare time, Sarah likes to write poetry, go to music festivals and drink wine. Her favorite food is the burrito. She is an avid reader of fantasy novels, an active participant in feminist circles, and will always have an adventure planned in the foreseeable future. Interesting fact: Sarah is fluent in Irish (Gaeilge).

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