Sea Urchin Link to Climate Change Control
News Jun 24, 2013
A chance discovery by chemical engineers at Newcastle University, UK, has revealed that the humble sea urchin may hold the key to cost effective carbon capture and storage in the future.
The discovery was made during research looking at how organisms absorb carbon dioxide (CO2).
Sea urchins are known for their ability to convert CO2 to calcium carbonate, which is the main component found in the shells of animals like snails and marine animals such as sea urchins.
During their experiments, the team at Newcastle found high concentrations of tiny nickel particles on the exoskeletons of sea urchin larvae.
During testing it was found that the nickel nanoparticles, which have a large surface area, resulted in the complete and rapid removal of CO2.
The process, which leaves calcium carbonate - a harmless, solid mineral - could be the key to capturing tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and its potential was flagged by Lord Ron Oxburgh during a presentation to the UK Science Council in London on 18 June 2013.
Current studies for carbon capture and storage systems propose the removal of CO2 by pumping it into holes deep underground. This process is known to be costly, difficult and risky.
Andy Furlong, director of policy and communication, at the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) was in the audience and he said: “This discovery is of huge potential and much credit needs to go to the research team at Newcastle University.
“They have identified that by using a nickel catalyst waste carbon dioxide can be captured before it ever reaches the atmosphere and store it as a safe and stable product which has a wide range of uses including plaster casts and cement.
“There are also real opportunities for industries such as power stations and chemical processing plants to capture all their waste CO2 before it ever reaches the atmosphere.
Furlong continued, “Chemical engineers have an increasingly important role to play on issues like climate change. Research is fundamental to this and we are working with governments around the world to secure appropriate support for academic research and technological innovation that can tackle some of the big challenges facing humanity”.
IChemE’s technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters, outlines the importance of research to issues like climate change and the contribution chemical engineers are making to global challenges such as food, water, energy and health.
Algae Could Feed and Fuel Planet with Aid of New High-Tech ToolNews
Vast quantities of medicines and renewable fuels could be produced by algae using a gene-editing technique, a study suggests. The technique uses molecules that act like scissors to cut DNA - called CRISPR molecules - which allow researchers to add new genes or modify existing ones. Until now, scientists have struggled to develop a technique that works efficiently in algae.READ MORE
Marine Microbes may be Responsible for Production of the Greenhouse GasNews
Industrial and agricultural activities produce large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Many bacteria also produce methane as a byproduct of their metabolism. Some of this naturally released methane comes from the ocean, a phenomenon that has long puzzled scientists because there were no known methane-producing organisms living near the ocean’s surface but new evidence is helping to solve the mystery.READ MORE
Rare Nitrogen Molecules Offer Clues to Makeup of Other Life-Supporting PlanetsNews
A team of scientists using a state-of-the-art instrument reports the discovery of a planetary-scale “tug-of-war” of life, deep Earth and the upper atmosphere that is expressed in atmospheric nitrogen.READ MORE