Cool New Sponges Can Recycle CO2 Into Fuel

When your ice tea overflows the cup, forming a puddle on the counter, how do you clean it up? A sponge of course. Now scientists are working to see if the same idea will work with all that excess carbon dioxide that’s swirling around in our atmosphere.

Researchers at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, are developing a smart material called a MOF (metal organic framework) that could make it possible to capture C02 without using further coal-based energy. Using only the power of sunlight, these ‘solar sponges’ could be a new way to recycle carbon emissions without creating more in the process.

Traditionally, carbon dioxide capture has been accomplished through the use of liquid absorbers to catch flue gases at a coal-fired power plant before they escape into the atmosphere. The gases must then be heated to release the CO2 which is then stored and can be re-used. While slightly better than letting pollutants fly free, this process can consume as a much as 30 percent of a power plant’s production capacity. Not exactly efficient, especially when talking about power from fossil fuels.

In comparison, the CSIRO team uses a process called dynamic photo-switching, which refers to the reversible light-induced switching of floor or intensity. Instead of using liquid absorbers, the team used MOFs to absorb as much as a liter of nitrogen gas in just one gram of material. The unique material only requires UV light to trigger the release of CO2 after it has been captured from the mixture of exhaust gases. When exposed to concentrated UV light the MOF sponge instantaneously releases up to 64 percent of absorbed CO2, which can then be recycled into usable fuel.

“The capture and release process can be compared to soaking up water with a sponge and then wringing it out. When UV light hits the material its structure bends and twists and stored gas is released,” said Dr Matthew Hill, who was awarded a 2012 Eureka Prize for his MOF research and led the CSIRO group conducting this research. ”This is an exciting development for carbon capture because concentrated solar energy can be used instead of further coal-based energy to drive the process,” he added.


Related Reading:

Carbon Capture and Storage: Band-aid on a Bullet Wound?

DOE Breaks Ground on First Carbon Capture Demo Project

Study Shows Green Roofs Capture Carbon


image via Thinkstock


Brett Byers
Brett Byers3 years ago

Stop 1000 tons of CO2 emissions by saving acres of rainforest for just a few dollars:

Sarah Hill
Sarah H4 years ago

good idea, but just buy some house plants

Ian Mack
Ian Mack4 years ago

Whole heatedly agree with leaving the remaining fossil fuels in the ground.
If in our hubris we burn them all the consequences are frightful changed to climate systems and increases in our planet's temperature of over 4c.
If this technology can draw down the CO2 to preindustrial levels all the better.

Alexandra Rodda
Alexandra Rodda4 years ago

Good. Aiming at zero emissions as well as recapturing CO2 from the air are important . We'll have to think of every possible way to save ourselves.
A thought has occurred to me. We are supposedly on a cooling trend, approaching the next ice age. Yet our planet has not been as hot as this in 11000 years. Maybe we should leave all the fossil fuel in the ground so that we can save ourselves from the next ice age!

Rolland Nadjiwon
Rolland N4 years ago

...hope it works...

Vicky P.
Vicky P4 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H4 years ago

Very exciting, thanks. Hope that this can be put to use ASAP!

Julie F.
Julie F4 years ago


Julieanne Bowes
julieanne Bowes4 years ago


Ernie Miller
william Miller4 years ago