The C2CNT team uses low energy, low cost technology developed in the Licht lab located at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into widely useful and highly valued productscarbon nanotubes. These lighter weight alternatives to metals have remarkable properties including strength and conductivity, and are now being used in airline bodies such as the Boeing Dreamliner, high-end sports cars, nanoelectronics, and to store energy in electric vehicle batteries.
Image: Stuart Licht, University of Washington
In addition to developing economically viable products that utilize CO2 emissions from power plants, the XPRIZE contest aims to scale up these technologies to a point that can truly impact climate change. The conversion of CO2 to pure carbon nanotubes provides the most compact and stable form to capture carbon dioxide, and diminish its greenhouse effect to mitigate climate change.
The C2CNT process can utilize CO2 captured directly from the air or from an industrial smokestack. The CO2 dissolves easily into molten lithium carbonate. By adding electrodes and running an electrical current through the liquid, one electrode generates oxygen, and the other carbon nanotubes.
In the semifinal round of the contest teams were judged on how much CO2 they were able to consume, the size and value of the markets for their CO2-based products, and their efficiency in using energy, materials, land, and water. In the finals, teams must demonstrate at a scale that is at least 10 times greater than the semifinals requirements at a purpose-built industrial test site. For this final round of the competition, which runs until 2020, Licht and the C2CNT team will convert CO2 emissions from a natural gas-fired power plant in Alberta, Canada for a chance at winning the grand prize.
“There is building consensus that unchecked climate change can lead to a planetary extinction event. Scale-up of our C2CNT process is progressing. Climate change is a consequence of the massive, accelerating buildup of greenhouse gases during the industrial age. A massive scale of operations is required to reverse this buildup. C2CNT operating with an area equivalent to less than 10% of the area of the Sahara Desert is projected to be sufficient to heal the atmosphere to pre-industrial atmospheric CO2 levels in a subsequent ten years.”
University of Washington. Posted: April 09, 2018.