New electrochemical technology could de-acidify the oceans – and also remove carbon dioxide in the process

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Charles-François de Lannoy, Basile A. By Abdelkader and Jocelyn Reit,

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In an effort to combat the devastating effects of global warming, we must accelerate carbon emission reduction efforts and rapidly develop strategies for carbon dioxide (CO) removal.2) from the atmosphere and oceans. The technologies to reduce our carbon emissions are mature; Removing carbon from the environment does not require strong support from governments and the private sector.

Only 45 percent of carbon dioxide emissions remain in the atmosphere; The remainder is absorbed through two cycles: 1) biological carbon cycle Bhandar CO2 in plant matter and soil, and 2) the aquatic carbon cycle absorbs CO2 From the atmosphere to the oceans. Each of these cycles accounts for between 25 percent and 30 percent of the CO emitted2Respectively.

CO2 which dissolves and reacts in the oceans to form chemicals increase the acidity of the oceans, The dissolution of minerals from rocks along the coastline serves to balance this acidity, called geological weathering, but greatly increases the rate and amount of CO release.2 Emissions, particularly over the past 60 years, have far exceeded the rate of geological weathering, leading to a 30 percent increase in ocean acidity.

As the oceans become acidic, millions of marine species and entire ecosystems—especially coral reefs—will be unable to adapt.

We are putting pressure on the Earth’s natural rebalancing systems and damaging its ecosystems in the process. Our recent work at McMaster University and the University of Toronto, supported by the Carbon to Sea Initiative, has attempted to address these challenges.

challenge ahead

The good news is that it is possible to re-balance the pH of the oceans using a process called ocean alkalinity enhancement (OAE). Furthermore, this rebalancing will also encourage additional CO2 To be absorbed from the atmosphere. By carefully and continuously restoring ocean alkalinity, ocean acidification and excess atmospheric CO22 Concentrations can be dealt with together.

The clearest approach would be Add finely ground alkali minerals to the sea To directly reduce the acidity of water. However, the scale on which these processes would have to be implemented is staggering.

For example, we estimate that the equivalent of about eight thousand Empire State buildings would need to be added to the oceans each year by mid-century to meet IPCC emissions targets. Obviously, this technology cannot be the only solution.

We believe that electrochemical approaches operating on decarbonized energy are one of the best ways to tackle ocean acidification. Using a process called bipolar membrane electrodialysis (BMED), the acidity of seawater is removed directly without the addition of other substances. This technology requires only seawater, electricity and special membranes.

The simplicity and modularity inherent in BMED technology allows for a flexible, scalable, and potentially cost-effective method of carbon dioxide removal.

large scale construction

In 2015 – with a team of researchers from the Palo Alto Research Center and X Development – ​​we built and tested A small-scale BMED system. this system performed well And when combined with existing facilities like desalination plants it is very promising.

We identified its primary technical limitations, but in 2015–2017, carbon credits and incentives for climate change technologies were insufficient and the project was put on hold. Now the economic and physical environment has changed.

On the economic front, the tax credits provided by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in the United States as well as the persistent Increasing revenue-neutral carbon tax in Canada The economic feasibility of carbon dioxide reduction technologies is strengthening.

Additionally, extreme climate events, ranging from massive wildfires in Canada last year to the hottest months on record, to the hottest ocean temperatures ever measured, are shaking people up with the dire realities of climate change and calling for real solutions. Demand is increasing. BMED technology is one of these solutions.

BMED technology is partly limited by the specialized membranes available commercially. Additionally, these membranes account for a significant portion of the capital cost (about 30 percent) and have a short lifetime. sensitive to degradation,

The objective of our work is to develop scalable, ultra-thin membranes for use in the modified BMED process, as well as to develop efficient operating conditions, optimal industrial coupling, and ideal global locations to cost-effectively implement this OAE technology worldwide. Have to identify.

Ultra-thin membranes will remove acidity more efficiently than existing commercial membranes, while their manufacturing technology and optimized use will dramatically reduce their production and operating costs.

Developing cost effective BMED The system will pave the way for economically viable OAEs.

cautious optimism

Recently, several start-ups have been formed – such as ebb carbon, SeaO2 And Vesta-which aims to remove marine carbon dioxide through OAEs.

We encourage open communication about OAE progress and challenges with the public, research institutions, governments, and the private sector to accelerate solutions to OAE challenges.

In particular, we must assess the impact of readjusting seawater alkalinity on marine ecosystems, as well as develop and implement reliable systems to measure, report, and verify acidity and net amounts of carbon .

At the same time, we must also identify optimal large-scale deployment locations where OAEs can be implemented safely and effectively.

These ideas are being researched by various groups, but a lot of support is needed to rapidly test and scale this technology.

To overcome the technical challenges and environmental uncertainties, government, industrial, non-profit and venture capital support must be scaled up and dedicated to carefully and responsibly validating the large-scale implementation of OAE technologies around the world. should be done.

provided by conversation

This article is republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons license. read the original article,Conversation

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