Elizabeth Svoboda over at Discover Magazine just posted about a new way to pull CO2 out of our atmosphere that doesn’t involve dumping limestone into the ocean, brought to you by Stuart Licht, the George Washington University Professor of Chemistry who just came up last year with a revolutionary CO2-free method of producing iron that would save us from the estimated 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the commercial iron industry each year. This guy seriously deserves an award.
Licht’s latest development is the STEP (Solar Thermal Electrochemical Production) process, which uses an electrolysis cell powered by solar energy to break down a carbon dioxide particle. Electric current is used to split CO2 into oxygen and solid carbon or carbon monoxide, which can then be used to make plastics and fuels (you can read more about the STEP process here).
How much CO2 would this process take out of the equation?
“If he could construct STEP solar arrays dispersed across 4 percent of the Sahara, he would be able to convert 92 billion tons of carbon dioxide into solid carbon each year. At that rate, he could eliminate one-tenth of all the carbon dioxide released since the Industrial Revolution in a single year.”
Somebody needs to connect Licht with the folks over at DESERTEC.
Just to give you an idea, 4 percent of the Sahara amounts to 360,000 sq km, or a field 600 km by 600 km (it’s about 660 km from Boston to Baltimore), which is less than 0.0003% of the Saharan country of Chad.