An industrial-port area in Niigata, Japan, on May 9, 2022. A technology could revolutionize CO2 extraction, according to researchers in Tokyo.
©Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP
In any case, this is what we can hope for in view of the results presented by researchers from the Tokyo Metropolitan University.
Atlantico: Among the many innovations and research aimed at limiting the impacts of global warming, the tools used to capture CO2 are regularly talked about. Researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University have developed a process that would be much more effective than those already developed. How does it work and how is it new?
Myriam Maestroni: Before detailing the aspects of this new system, I think it is important to remember that we are witnessing an unprecedented acceleration of climate change. The latest IPCC report is extremely pessimistic. This means that we must imperatively cap our CO2 emissions in a shorter time frame than we imagined. According to the latest data, we would only have 3 years left to defuse the current trend by reducing our emissions.
Faced with this, the time is no longer for debate. We are today obliged to act and we must allow everyone to understand that it is essential to use all the levers at our disposal. The idea of pumping carbon stock into the atmosphere is one such solution. For example, the DAC, for Direct Air Capture, recovers CO2 to store it in geological layers. This process is used in Iceland and the CO2 can be reused by the food industry or to make synthetic fuels.
The method developed by researchers at Tokyo Metropolitan University is totally new and supports the idea that innovation is extremely important. Usually, there are two methods to capture CO2 from the atmosphere. The first is to pass carbon dioxide through a liquid solution while the second allows CO2 to react with absorbent filters. The Tokyo Metropolitan University team is working on a liquid/solid system that would achieve 99% efficiency, according to their latest press release. This CO2 is precipitated as carbonic acid at twice the rate of conventional systems, making it much more efficient. In addition, the process is reversible and allows the CO2 to be recovered in order to reuse it. The interests are therefore multiple and this solution seems promising.
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What is the importance of this type of method to reduce global warming? Is it really effective?
The idea of sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere is not new. The current systems work but their effectiveness remains relative with regard to the costs of implementation.
At present, it is still too early to methodologically evaluate and compare this new system, but it looks promising. The mere idea of capturing CO2 from the atmosphere was anecdotal a few years ago but is beginning to interest many researchers and a race for large-scale use begins. This is a real form of hope and we should be happy about it.
At present, is it possible to implement this process on a large scale? What are the remaining obstacles?
The equations are economic and technological. If the recovery potential is low for a high cost, this option will not be retained.
Two factors can be noted that could allow the implementation of this process on a large scale. Firstly, it now seems obvious that in view of the current situation, in particular according to the latest IPCC report, we must implement all existing means to reduce our carbon emissions. Finally, in terms of investments, CO2 currently sells for around 80 euros per tonne. It sold for around 7/8 euros during the COP21 in Paris in 2015. The economic situation has therefore changed considerably. I think this could enable us to see major investments in this sector in the relatively near future.
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