Researchers at the University of Delaware(UD) have demonstrated a mind-blowing technology that can effectively remove 99% of Carbon Dioxide(CO2) from the atmosphere. Yes, you just read the right thing. The technology they demonstrated is an electrochemical system powered by hydrogen.

This will accelerate the worldwide technology for carbon dioxide removal and help to bring much more environmentally friendly fuel cells to market.

Of course, Carbon Dioxide is an essential greenhouse gas for photosynthesis and carbon dioxide helps keep our blue planet warm.

Without carbon dioxide, plants cannot grow. Here, 99% efficiency of this technology means that the technology is capable of removing 99% of CO2.
We’re not gonna remove all the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Researchers reported about their technology in Nature Energy on Thursday, February 3. The research team was led by Professor Yushan Yan from the University of Delaware.

University of Delaware researchers have broken new ground that could bring more environmentally friendly fuel cells closer to commercialization.
University of Delaware researchers have broken new ground that could bring more environmentally friendly fuel cells closer to commercialization.


According to Nasa, The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is currently at nearly 412 parts per million (ppm) and still rising. This shows a 47% increase since the beginning of the Industrial Age when the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was near 280 ppm, and an 11% increase since 2000 when the concentration was near 370 ppm.

“We know our atmosphere is changing and that these changes may affect our civilization,” says atmospheric scientist David Crisp of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “We now have the tools to monitor our atmosphere very carefully so that we can give policymakers the best information available. If you’ve invested in a carbon reduction strategy, such as converting from coal to natural gas or transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, wouldn’t you like to know that it worked? You can only manage what you can measure.”

Fuel cells work by converting chemical energy from the fuel directly into electricity. They are commonly used in the transportation of hybrid or zero-emission vehicles. Yan, Henry Belin du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UD, has been working to improve the efficiency of Hydroxide Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells(HEMFC), an low cost and environmentally friendly alternative to normal acid-based fuel cells used today.

But the problem is, Hydrogen Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells have a shortcoming that kept them from wide use because they are highly sensitive to carbon dioxide in the air. This means the carbon dioxide makes it hard for a HEM fuel cell to work. This disadvantage of HEMFC reduces the fuel cell’s performance and efficiency by up to 20%, which makes the fuel cell no better than a gasoline engine. Yan’s research group has been working on a solution to this problem for the past 15 years.

Researchers unveiled mind-blowing tech that is capable of removing 99% of CO2 from the Atmosphere
Suddenly, they got a great insight. The researchers realized this disadvantage of the HEMFC might be a solution for carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.

“Once we dug into the mechanism, we realized the fuel cells were capturing just about every bit of carbon dioxide that came into them, and they were really good at separating it to the other side,” said Brian Setzler, assistant professor for research in chemical and biomolecular engineering.

The team took advantage of the built-in process found in HEMFC that will create a carbon dioxide separator “It turns out our approach is very effective. We can capture 99 percent of the carbon dioxide out of the air in one pass if we have the right design and right configuration,” said study lead, Yushan Yan.

The results the team got showed that an electrochemical cell measuring 2 inches by 2 inches could remove about 99% of the carbon dioxide from the air which is flowing at a rate of two liters in a minute. A spiral device, which was prototyped by the team was about the size of a 12-ounce soda can. This device is capable of filtering 10 liters of air in a minute and the device removed 98% of the carbon dioxide.

According to Lin Shi, a doctoral candidate in the Yan group and the paper’s lead author. Because the electrochemical system is powered by hydrogen, this electrochemical device can be used in airplanes and buildings as the hydrogen economy develops. Later this month, Shi will join Versogen to continue future research toward sustainable green hydrogen. Versogen is a University of Delaware spinoff company founded by Yan.

Reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations lowers the chance of global warming and other climate crisis. Reducing carbon dioxide alone will not help to get rid of climate change. But the reduction will play a major role in maintaining the climate.


More information: Lin Shi et al, Nature Energy (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-021-00969-5


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