Issue Date: March 30, 2009
Carbonic Acid Could Be A Fix For Carbon
To reduce the threat of global warming, it has become a foregone conclusion that practical and inexpensive methods for trapping and sequestering carbon dioxide are needed. Current techniques include using solutions of amines to strip CO2 from power-plant flue gases at high temperature and then pumping the CO2 deep underground or to the bottom of the ocean. But that approach requires large amounts of chemicals and energy. A new candidate for CO2 capture and sequestration could be carbonic acid, H2CO3, according to computational studies by John A. Tossell of the University of Maryland (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es802393s). Although H2CO3 can be made by percolating CO2 through water, the weak acid is unstable and has a fleeting existence in solution and as a solid. But under the right conditions, H2CO3 takes advantage of weak hydrogen bonds to form oligomers, (H2CO3)n. Tossell took a closer look at available physical and spectral data on H2CO3 and made a series of calculations to determine that (H2CO3)n for n = 2–4 could form a sufficiently stable solid from only CO2 and water at low temperatures. Tossell is beginning to study the feasibility of low-cost, long-term CO2 storage via H2CO3 at the Renewable Energy Institute at George Washington University.
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