Electricity from Carbon Emissions

August 27, 2013

A new method for producing electricity from carbon dioxide could be the start of a classic trash-to-treasure story for this troublesome greenhouse gas.

According to research from the Environmental Science & Technology Letters, a journal of the American Chemical Society, the solution uses CO2 from electric power plant and other smokestacks as the raw material for making electricity.

Scientists report the technology would react the CO2 with water or other liquids and, with further processing, produce a flow of electrons that make up electric current.

This process could produce about 1,570 billion kWh of additional electricity annually if used to harvest CO2 from power plants, industry, and residences – about 400 times the annual electrical output of the Hoover Dam.

As is the case with hydroelectric power facilities, this additional amount of energy would be produced without adding more CO2 to the atmosphere.

Smokestack gas from a typical coal-fired plant contains about 10% CO2, which not only goes to waste but is a key contributor to global warming.

The 12 billion annual tons of CO2 released from electric power stations comes from the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. Combined with the 11 billion tons produced by home and commercial heating, carbon dioxide can now be viewed as a potential source of power rather than pollution.