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Sucking Carbon out of the air? Answered

I read somewhere that lye can absorb carbon from the air, and that organizations are putting out HUGE tubs of lye to suck up carbon. I wonder if it works.

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forgesmith (author)2008-06-27

Found MSNBC article from Nov 2007. Air is mixed with lye, carbon-loaded lye is mixed with lime to make limestone, limestone is baked releasing pure CO2 "ready for storage." No idea how one "stores" that much CO2 gas. Convert to dry ice and air drop on Antarctica?

If "organizations" are using tubs of lye, and not at least converting to limestone which gets buried somewhere safe, well congratulations, the "environ-mental nut-job" label has been earned again.

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NachoMahma (author)forgesmith2008-06-27

. I don't understand ANY of the sequestering schemes. Even is one is overly optimistic, they are, at best, a very short term patch that does nothing to solve the problem. . > well congratulations, the "environ-mental nut-job" label has been earned again . Gee, you're rather outspoken. I like that. :)

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forgesmith (author)NachoMahma2008-06-27

I'm waiting for them to genetically engineer an algae or similar that will take in CO2 and generate pure carbon as a waste, with the idea of growing them in huge vats, processing the carbon into solid blocks of [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coke_(fuel) coke], with the blocks being stored out in the open in assorted arid wastelands. Perhaps in the future they could be used for fuel or other products. Maybe even to make houses.

Which would work until someone decides too much energy is being wasted by using huge vats, the foul governments and multi-national corporations can't be trusted, nature is always best, and dumps some of the organisms into the ocean where they freely multiply.

Does anybody here need the play-by-play of what happens next?

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westfw (author)forgesmith2008-06-27

I want plants to produce carbon fiber rather than coke. We can solve the problem of too much carbon in the atmosphere (if it is a problem) by BUILDING with it... (perhaps not; the numbers don't work out so good.) Still, a process (biological or otherwise) for growing assorted exotic carbon molecules from CO2 would be ... very interesting...

Lye and similar compounds are well known carbon dioxide absorbents. They're used on submarines and space craft and oxygen rebreathing apparatus and such.

If you're going to put out huge tubs of lye to "solve" the problem, they'd better be REALLY huge. As a rough guess, every ton of fossil fuel burned needs at least THREE tons of lye to absorb the CO2 (for your chemistry homework, produce a more exact number :-)

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forgesmith (author)westfw2008-06-28

Coke is basically pure carbon thus useful, process with water and make some nifty hydrocarbons. You can build stuff with it, how about a house made with coke bricks? And if you're going to burn something anyway to heat your home, pelleted coke would burn clean, have little to no residue, and none of the sulfur and nitrogen compounds of fossil fuels. Carbon fiber, however, sounds useful. But the little annoying fibers can be a breathing hazard besides the innumerable joys of working with thousands of tiny sharp needles. How about a nice factory that takes in coke blocks on one end and spits out carbon fiber fabric at the other?

Of course, CO2 has a global average concentration of 0.0387% by volume, so that's a lot of air to circulate to remove carbon. This works better as an industrial scrubber for power plants, etc. And as soon as you can get the good decent citizens to accept many tankers of lye on the highways and railroad tracks thru their neighborhoods on the way to those industrial sites, then it might work.

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Kiteman (author)forgesmith2008-06-28

> double take < Did you just suggest building a house out of fuel and then having an open fire?

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forgesmith (author)Kiteman2008-06-28

We build houses with burnable wood all the time, with wood floors in front of fireplaces. "New" alternate building material, hay bales. And aren't you used to thatched roofs? It's all in how you use it. Of course, an open fire wasn't indicated, I was thinking about a furnace, although there are lots of "stoves" that burn wood pellets and could be modified for coke pellets. Coke burns hotter than coal, need to take that into account.

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Kiteman (author)forgesmith2008-06-28

Good grief - why do you never get my humour?

Regarding the carbon fibre, westfw didn't mean to have it loose, like glass-fibre insulation, but embedded in a resin as a composite material.

If you could coax a plant to grow carbon fibres internally, and to excrete a UV-stable resin instead of the lignin, you could produce huge amounts of carbon-fibre composite sheeting in adapted paper-mills.

(That was another joke, by the way)

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forgesmith (author)Kiteman2008-06-28

Well, while I don't know westfw was thinking (and wonder how you do), there are plenty of other people who actually have experience with carbon fiber composites, which is what I was referring to. Those people are professional custom knifemakers, they've started using the material for handles, and that's what they've found. Many annoying little fibers, from sawing and grinding it.

Here's a "field report" from a supplier of knifemaking materials:

Some of the advantages of carbon fiber sheet are high strength, light weight, dimensional stability and corrosion resistance.

The disadvantages are tooling wear and health concerns. Carbon fiber dust is VERY VERY BAD FOR YOU. Always wear a respirator when working with carbon fiber. Keep the respirator on when cleaning your work area. Do everything possible to avoid breathing the dust. The dust will make your skin itch. Every time we work with carbon fiber we spend the next few weeks digging little black splinters from our hands. I keep saying that when our current inventory is gone we will not sell it again. I truely hate working with this material.

Oh, and replace lignin? It's such an integral part of a plant's structures I doubt we could genetically engineer a replacement, especially something as specific as a UV-stable resin. Besides, paper mills are not known for making products with aligned strands, and a random-orientation paper-thin material doesn't seem to be useful, given that current composites derive much of their strength from using a long-fiber fabric. Especially since once the resin cures it'll probably be too stiff to roll up as is done with paper, really will just be a brittle sheet that'll fracture easily, releasing those annoying little fibers. But it might burn well, there's likely a need out there for weather-resistant emergency tinder.

(Strange, never had any problems picking up on British humor before, enjoy everything from Red Dwarf to Waiting for God. Maybe it's one of those things where something so small gets easily overlooked...)

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forgesmith (author)Kiteman2008-06-28

Whoops, mistake above. "...while I don't know westfw was thinking..." should've been "...while I don't know what westfw was thinking..." Sorry westfw, no insult intended.

Carry on people, nothing to see here...

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Goodhart (author)Kiteman2008-06-28

Um, yeah. Coke is great "inside a forge" ( it certainly burns hot enough ;-), but I am wondering how they would be made impervious to heat so that one's house doesn't become an above ground Centralia.

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Kiteman (author)Goodhart2008-06-28

You could speed things up with wallpaper and wooden furniture as well...

...otherwise known as kindling.

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Goodhart (author)Kiteman2008-06-28

Of course, bedsheets, curtains, and fabric on the furniture will make starting it a whole lot easier. :-) Oh, and lets not forget carpeting LOL

On a positive note, if one put the coke behind steel walls, one could stay warm most of the winter, by igniting the coke and not leaning against the steel walls LOL They CO and CO2 might be a problem though....

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xACIDITYx (author)forgesmith2008-06-28

Environ-mental nut-job
Lol! Too bad it's true...

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gmoon (author)2008-06-27

Hmmmmmm, just curious--where did you read that?

and why use lye, when you can plant a tree? (which is self-sustaining and removes carbon for decades.) Or grassland, or your favorite crop..

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killerjackalope (author)2008-06-27

I had a better idea, right see for the likes of power plants, massive vats of algae are used to change the CO2 back into oxygen, the bonus being that certain algae can live in harmony with the kind of things that make oil in modified experiments, rather than making it a batch process make it constant...

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westfw (author)killerjackalope2008-06-27

Um. The carbon has to GO somewhere. Normally it would go to making more algae, but that's sorta a dead end...

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killerjackalope (author)westfw2008-06-28

I was thinking some kind of symbiosis, using the decaying algae to feed something like yeast or other anaerobic bacteria, recycling the carbon back in to something...

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NachoMahma (author)2008-06-27

. Lye is NaOH which does absorb CO2 . I didn't see any info on just how much CO2 it will absorb, but my hunch is that it isn't near enough to make a dent in the problem. Plus, then your stuck with a bunch of CO2-saturated lye to dispose of.

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