Technology

Flaw or Feature?

How the shortcomings of fuel cells gave rise to carbon capture

A promising new development in carbon capture technology may help slow climate change. A group of engineers developed a method capable of extracting 99% of Carbon Dioxide from the air. These engineers from the University of Delaware noticed a flaw in existing technology and developed it into something useful.

The University of Delaware’s Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering was working on improving a type of fuel cell called hydroxide exchange membrane (HEM) cell. The cells are sensitive to carbon within the air which hinders the cell’s efficiency. This problem makes this technology a less attractive contender for a normal gas engine replacement. The team realized that since the fuel cell was attracting carbon, this phenomenon could be harnessed. 

In exploiting the problem with the original technology, the researchers created a new device. The developed technology is a small 2-inch by 2-inch unit that can catch around 99% of the carbon dioxide that passes through it. 

Carbon Dioxide is a well-known gas that contributes to the greenhouse effect which has been warming the globe. If this device were modularized and implemented on exhausts of common vehicles it could reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions newly released into the atmosphere.

While the device is only preventing new carbon dioxide from being released, it can still be helpful.

The device is currently intended to remove CO2 in newly generated emissions which won’t do much about the preexisting climate issue. However, the prevention of mass amounts of greenhouse gasses being added to the atmosphere would likely help keep the climate crisis from worsening. Hopefully, this technology is continuously adapted and implemented on a large scale as soon as possible. Any technology that can help combat climate change seems worth looking into. 

This technology also highlights an important lesson. The issue with one device was developed into a different and promising new technology. This goes to show that negatives can be turned into positives and that remaining adaptive can lead to great developments. 

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