ATK, a company that builds the space shuttles’ booster rockets may have a solution for the massively-polluting coal power plants, by using rocket nozzle technology to turn the carbon dioxide into dry ice, and capture it easier than they can do with chemicals.
“Today’s carbon capture technology adds 80 percent to the cost per kilowatt hour of electricity delivered,” ATK vice president Robert Bakos told Discovery News. “With our approach, we could knock that down to 30 percent.”
In its regular job, ATK has to handle high-speed aerodynamics for its rockets. In this case, ATK thought using a phenomenon that happens with air is pushed at high speed, creating high pressure, would help capturing carbon dioxide from it.
“When you accelerate air to very high speed, you have to expand the air very quickly. It cools the air and in some cases if you have water (vapor) in the air, it will make it condense into water or even snow. The same idea applies if you have carbon dioxide,” Bakos said.
If you freeze carbon dioxide, it will act like frozen water, and turn into “dry ice”. From that moment on, it’s fairly easy to extract and store it, or use for whatever purpose.
In a desperate effort to clean the emissions that coal powered plants produce, the industry has to invent new technologies that could make coal more viable than oil in terms of pollution and price. Coal is an better economical solution than oil, but worse than it, since it emits lots of carbon dioxide (and soot).
Solar power will ultimately win, but if we can’t replace coal right now, at least let’s make it a little more bearable, both economically and environmentally.