Extreme Temperature Diary-January 16, 2018/ Topic: Plastic Out of Thin Air

Tuesday January 16th… The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. I’ll refer to extreme temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials)😊. Here is today’s climate change related topic:

Plastic Out of Thin Air

Imagine a world in which most pollution and waste is transformed into useful products such that drilling and mining for raw materials nearly becomes a dinosaur of the early industrial age. Optimistically, indeed that is what is possible looking at new technology springing to life in the early 21st century. We know that it’s technologically possible to go entirely green across the planet for transportation and home needs using micro grid based solar energy, wind turbine, and other techniques. Even though it would take trillions of dollars worth of effort, carbon pollution can be stopped worldwide. At the same time that we are diminishing carbon pollution we need to drop concentrations of CO2 that is already in the atmosphere down to 350 parts per million, at least according to Bill McKibben. Today I’m going to present a new method for literally turning atmospheric CO2 into a useful product…plastic.

We all know that the best “machines” for taking carbon out of the atmosphere are the bio ones…plants. The good news is that CO2 is a chemical that can be broken down into carbon with a “waste product” of pure oxygen. So, how can carbon be turned into plastic? I’ll be referring to this new article: https://phys.org/news/2018-01-greenhouse-gases-plastics-catalyst-recycling.html

The Science quoted from the article:

At the heart of this work is the carbon dioxide reduction reaction, wherein CO2 is converted into other chemicals through the use of an electrical current and a chemical reaction, aided by a catalyst.

Many metals can serve as catalysts in this type of reaction: gold, silver and zinc can make carbon monoxide, while tin and paladium can make formate. Only copper can produce ethylene, the core component of polyethylene plastic.

“Copper is a bit of a magic metal. It’s magic because it can make many different chemicals, like methane, ethylene, and ethanol, but controlling what it makes is difficult,” says De Luna, the  man behind the technical team.

That is precisely what the team’s results address, however. They were able to design a catalyst and pinpoint the ideal conditions to maximize ethylene production, while minimizing the methane output to nearly nothing.

Paired with , this could lead to an incredibly green production mechanism for everyday plastics, meanwhile sequestering harmful .

The surface of a nanostructured copper catalyst that converts CO2 into ethylene. Credit: Canadian Light Source

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-01-greenhouse-gases-plastics-catalyst-recycling.html#jCp

As I come across more useful ways to capture carbon, I’ll present them on this site. Millennials hopefully will engineer our way out of this climate mess. I’m going to emphasize, though, that nothing and I mean nothing as of 2018 will take the place of trying to keep carbon pollution to a minimum and carbon sources in the ground. Any new technology should not be a big, fat excuse to pollute. Also as an aside, plastics should be recycled and not be dumped into the oceans where they can be extremely harmful to sea life. 


Speaking of Extreme Temperatures Bob Henson has a nice piece on them for January 2018 here:


It will indeed be cold tomorrow morning where the cold team will rack up some cold ETs:

 If I see any reports of ETs for JAN 16th I’ll post them later this evening.

The Climate Guy




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