A University of Texas at Arlington scientist is attempting to develop a process that uses seawater to eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Erika La Plante, Assistant Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department, secured a $125,000 subgrant from UCLA as part of a larger Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy grant for the research.
The UCLA researchers created a continuous electrolytic pH pump that employs high-alkalinity seawater with high concentrations of carbon dioxide and cations to make minerals that remove CO2 from the atmosphere. La Plante and her Postdoctoral Researcher, Muhammad Kashif Majeed, created electrode materials for the pump to improve the efficiency of the removal process.
La Plante was a Postdoctoral Researcher and Project Scientist at UCLA before joining the main team that started the work. She published an article outlining the findings of their research.
We are measuring the rates of mineral precipitation under various electrochemical conditions and tendencies. Once we have candidate materials based on tendencies, we can look at cost and durability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that we need to remove 10–20 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year to avoid catastrophic climate change. We believe that our process could make significant progress toward that goal.
Erika La Plante, Assistant Professor, Materials Science and Engineering Department, University of Texas at Arlington
Seawater with a high pH can be utilized to make minerals that extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, like magnesium hydroxide. To do this, seawater is pumped into a reactor, where electrochemical reactions produce magnesium hydroxide, calcium carbonate, or magnesium carbonate, which traps carbon dioxide for at least 10,000 to 100,000 years.
In other words, the innovation has the ability to remove 10 gigatons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, according to La Plante. Unlike traditional carbon dioxide capture technologies, which require significant energy, this novel approach is based on electrolytic carbonate mineral precipitation using renewable energy and a simple and scalable design.