In Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists developed methods to remove carbon dioxide from industrial flue gases, including emissions from coal-fired power plants, by using chemical methods to capture the carbon dioxide molecules from the air. The carbon molecules can then be recycled into valuable chemicals and fuels like ethanol and methanol. ORNL plans on working with engineers and private companies to scale up their carbon capture methods so it can be used for industrial use. They estimate their methods, when scaled up, will cost about $100 a ton.
Radu Custelcean, a researcher in ORNL’s Chemical Sciences Division, told Oak Ridger that “the ORNL air contactor uses a chemically stable sorbent that strongly binds to carbon dioxide, has a long lifetime and low capital cost and is environmentally friendly because of minimal waste and pollution, low water usage and a small footprint. To release carbon dioxide from the solid sorbent, only low-grade waste heat or the concentrated energy of sunlight is needed.”