Asphalt May Play a Role in Alleviating Climate Change
Solar panels, wind farms, hydropower, and energy-efficient windows may be a few of the technological advancements that you connect to saving the environment, but what about asphalt? Believe it or not, a new form of porous asphalt has been created that can absorb 154 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide, and this has huge implications for our battle against climate change. Experts are eager to use this porous asphalt to help make natural gas a cleaner energy source.
The Natural Gas: Asphalt Connection
Natural gas has a reputation of being a relatively clean and reliable source of energy, but the truth is that in its raw form, natural gas contains anywhere between 2 and 10 percent carbon dioxide and other impurities. The gas cannot be sold with those impurities, so a removal and clean up process is required before customer distribution occurs.
Unfortunately, this cleanup process is expensive, complicated, and energy-demanding. Natural gas must be sent through fluids called amines that soak up and remove carbon dioxide. Recycling the amine liquid for further use requires a huge use of energy, making the entire natural gas purification process a “big energy sink,” in the word of Rice University chemist James Tour.
Tour and his lab developed the new porous asphalt to take the place of amines. Since the tough, sponge-like substance can absorb 154 percent of its weight in carbon dioxide, it paves the way for a far more efficient purification process. “This shows we can take the least expensive form of asphalt and make it into this very high surface area material to capture carbon dioxide. Before, we could only use a very expensive form of asphalt that was not readily available,” Tour explained.
As our environment fights a continual and frightening battle against the impacts of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, it is discoveries such as this that provide a sense of hope and direction.