Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Building with CO2

PostedSeptember 6, 2015

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: Last week, President Obama warned about the negative impacts of climate change. A local chemist may be engineering a solution.

Randy Atkins: The idea is to take carbon dioxide from smoke stacks or the air, says Stuart Licht of George Washington University…and turn it into a very valuable material called carbon nanofibers.

Stuart Licht: They’re among the strongest materials available,they’re much stronger than steel.

Randy Atkins: Carbon nanofibers, also light weight, are used in jets, high-end cars, and sports equipment. But making them is complex, energy consuming, and expensive. Licht’s method starts with common materials called carbonates.

Stuart Licht: We melt them and at high temperature under the correct conditions they absorb carbon dioxide wonderfully.

Randy Atkins: Then, Licht says, applying a just small voltage efficiently produces oxygen and the carbon nanofibers. Solar energy can drive the process. Licht thinks this simple, inexpensive method could make those fibers the building material of the future…and, with enough demand, might even be a real answer to addressing climate change. With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.