Researchers at MIT have developed a low environmental impact battery using carbon dioxide produced by industrial combustion processes. CO2, one of the worst enemies of the environment, could soon turn into a precious ally in the fight against climate change. A team of scientists at MIT in Boston has in fact developed a new technology that allows the use of CO2 from industrial plants to make new conception lithium batteries.
Nowadays CO2 capture is extremely expensive: the thermoelectric plants equipped with systems for the collection of greenhouse gas use in fact up to 30% of the energy produced to fuel this process which, in the end, does not allow us to obtain any usable product.
Betar Gallant, first signatory of the study explains that CO2 is not particularly reactive and to turn it into something useful, a chemical compound or a fuel, huge amounts of energy must be fed into the process and this makes the electrochemical conversion of the gas uneconomical.
However, MIT scientists went further and developed a newly developed lithium-CO2 battery that uses liquid greenhouse gas as an electrolyte. Lithium-CO2 batteries are not an absolute novelty: those made up to now, however, require the use of metal electrodes, expensive and difficult to control during the reaction that leads to the production of electricity, but essential to overcome the chemical inertia of greenhouse gases.
The MIT battery uses a simple and inexpensive carbon electrode and active CO2 thanks to an amine solution, an organic compound containing nitrogen. The research is still in its initial phase and it is soon to foresee a possible commercial development of the project. The first prototypes made are able to support at most a dozen cycles of charge and discharge, but the road still looks promising.
The new battery seems sustainable from an environmental point of view even once it is discharged, because the byproduct of the electrochemical reaction is nothing but lithium carbonate, a harmless salt. Scientists are exploring the possibility of making continuous-cycle versions of this process, using CO2 flows under pressure together with the amine material. The goal is to develop integrated systems that combine the capture of CO2 from the chimneys to its transformation into an electrochemical material to be used in batteries.
According to scientists, the capture and storage of CO2 produced by combustion plants are essential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.
Storing the dangerous substance in underground storage, to date is the most technically and economically viable road, but nevertheless presents limitations in the quantities that can be accumulated and not indifferent costs for drilling and pumping the gas in the underground.