Turning air into stone

5 months ago Comments Off on Turning air into stone

THIS year the world’s power stations, farms, cars and the like will generate the equivalent of nearly 37 billion tonnes of waste carbon dioxide. All of it will be dumped into the atmosphere, where it will trap infra-red radiation and warm the planet. Earth is already about 0.85°C warmer than last century’s average temperature. Thanks to the combined influence of greenhouse-gas emissions and El Niño, a heat-releasing oceanic phenomenon, 2016 looks set to be the warmest year on record, and by a long way.

It would be better, then, to find some method of disposing of CO2. One idea, carbon capture and storage (CCS), involves collecting the gas from power stations and factories and burying it underground where it can do no harm. But CCS is expensive and mostly untried. One worry is whether the buried gas will stay put. Even small fissures in the rocks that confine it could let it leak out over the course of time, undoing much of the benefit. And even if cracks are not there to begin with, the very drilling necessary to bury the gas might create them.

A paper just published in Science offers a possible…Continue reading
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