Can Carbon Dioxide Gas Create Electricity? Scientists Say Yes

Can electricity come from carbon dioxide gas? A group of researchers claim that it can. Environmentalists have long said carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that increases global warming — so maybe there is at least one upside to the byproduct after all?

Billions of tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, created by humans every year are released into the atmosphere. Between power plants and industrial operations, it is common all over the world. Researchers from the Netherlands say energy could be drawn out of the CO2 gas.

Enough could be pulled out to equal 400 Hoover Dams every year, producing about 1,570 extra terawatts every year, Discovery News reports.

The group of scientists wrote about their findings recently in an environmental journal. More than confirm that electricity can be pulled from CO2 gas, the paper describes how it can be done.

Research leader Bert Hamelers says that “the energy is there. Only you need a turbine to get it.”

Actually, there is a little more to it. The system Hamelers and his researchers came up with involves, first, tanks of water. Two membranes, or special filters, are put into the tanks. The carbon dioxide, to get electricity, is mixed with a liquid solution, then dumped in the tanks. These membranes draw the CO2 to them; one pulls positively charged CO2 molecules, while the other draws the negatively charged ones.

This creates a flow in the mixture that becomes an electrical current. This can be stored and used for a later purpose or put into the power grid.

To prove their claims, a more simplistic model was built using bubbles and pumps, which actually used more energy than it produced. But NBC News says the researchers don’t believe it would be difficult to use membranes efficiently for large-scale use.

While the process does not destroy carbon dioxide gas it can help make power plants much more efficient. Researchers note in the paper that it may be some time before technology is perfected to be able to draw electricity out of carbon dioxide gas.

[Image via Fintrvlr via photopin cc]