Carbon Dioxide: From Greenhouse Gas to Clean Energy

By Ben Dellaripa

Efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions are a key part of the fight against global warming.  Unfortunately, CO2 is a fairly ubiquitous byproduct of energy producing reactions, and therefore is produced in large quantities at electrical power plants.  Interestingly, scientists at MIT are in the process of developing a battery that uses carbon dioxide conversion as a method of producing energy.  Dealing with the production of CO2 is currently an expensive process, as power plants often use about 30% of the electricity they produce solely to properly collect and store the CO2 they make.  Any process that could simplify the process of capturing the CO2, or use it to create a marketable product, will have drastic effects on the finances of these power plants.  Carbon dioxide is a fairly inert gas, so previous efforts to convert it to other products have been expensive and inefficient.  The batteries being developed consist of lithium metal, solid carbon, and an electrolyte solution containing carbon dioxide and amides, which help the CO2 conduct electricity more effectively.  While current models are limited in their abilities to be recharged, and likely won’t be available as finished products for years, the design is extremely promising, as it offers a preferable alternative to the current methods of dealing with CO2 byproduct.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "New battery gobbles up carbon dioxide: Lithium-based battery could make use of greenhouse gas before it ever gets into the atmosphere." ScienceDaily. (accessed September 30, 2018).