Friday, October 16, 2015

Carbon Nanofiber Manufacturing- Environmental Savior?

With increasing evidence that the planet is indeed warming from a buildup of carbon in the atmosphere, more and more industrial minds are looking for ways humanity can adjust its mass productivity with the coming environmental issues of the 21st century.

New process extracts carbon nanofibers out of thin air
Researchers from George Washington University have kept this in mind and decided to go directly to the source: carbon itself. Carbon nanofiber has already earned a reputation as a new material ripe with potential. While it used to be difficult to mass produce, new advances in process have made it cheaper and more efficient in comparison to similarly used materials such as steel and aluminum. The airline, bullet-proof armor, and medical tech worlds have all invested heavily in carbon nanofiber, and further developments could enable the material to even replace traditional building infrastructure.

And so with the real possibility of carbon nanofibers becoming universally used on a global level, Stuart Licht and his team at GWU developed a process of manufacturing that pulls CO2 directly from the atmosphere and by running it through an electric current in molten hot lithium carbonates, reforms it into a nano-substance. Right now all recorded results have been on the prototypical level. According to Licht, however, if the process were duplicated on a large scale, the math of diminishing the carbon in the atmosphere that currently traps heat from the sun at rates unprecedented in human recorded history works out to a very favorable outcome:

"We calculate that with a physical area less than 10 percent the size of the Sahara Desert, our process could remove enough CO2 to decrease atmospheric levels to those of the pre-industrial revolution within 10 years," Licht says in a statement through the American Chemical Society

Less than 10 percent of the Sahara is still a very big area. And there are still other variables to consider, such as the shelf life of the CO2 nanofibers themselves, and whether product decay would only delay the inevitable.

That said, this discovery marries the best of both the industrial and environmental worlds. Carbon nanofibers are not only an excellent choice of product for its application (durability, lightweight, tensile strength), but it is cost-effective and in higher demand every quarter. If its manufacturing process can also clean the air of the very particles exacerbating climate change as well, there may be literally no downside in its expansion as a universal raw material.

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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