LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) --We're all familiar with the huge impact that pollution controls have had on auto emissions. Now a Bay Area research lab is working to filter out key pollutants on a different scale.
The challenge of capturing greenhouse gasses may seem a bit like trying to get your arms around a cloud. But Joshuah Stolaroff and his team at the Lawrence Livermore Lab are refining two clever technologies that can do just that.
"One of the key challenges with carbon capture is there's such a huge volume of CO2," said Stolaroff.
To capture that carbon dioxide, or CO2, the team first came up with a filter system made up of tiny microbubbles. Their coating allows the CO2 gas to pass through, where it's absorbed by a special material inside. To make it easy to round the bubbles up later - they added in metallic particles.
"But with these capsules that have the shell with magnetic particles imbedded, If I use a magnet, I can easily separate them," said Congwang Ye, Ph.D., Lawrence Livermore Lab.
While work on the microbubble filters continues, the team recently doubled down with a second CO2 strategy that takes advantage of a manufacturing revolution -- 3D printing.
"And what we've figured out how to do is take a material that captures CO2, mix it with a polymer and print it into whatever kind of structure we want," said Stolaroff.
The results are mesh like filters with a huge surface area. When researcher Du Nguyen dips one in soda water it absorbs the bubbles like a giant CO2 sponge.
"So it has a dye that's pink. But when it captures CO2 it will shift to a white. You can clearly there's a really drastic color change," said Du Nguyen, Ph.D., Lawrence Livermore Lab.
After the CO2 is captured, the filters can be removed, and heated up to recover the gas.
"And that way you can compress it, and inject it underground or send it to another facility where it can be used for something," said Stolaroff.
Potentially removing a major contributor to global warming.