This type of study is published in the most recent issue of the journal Catalysis Science and Technology.
Scientists at Newcastle University found that sea urchins absorb carbon dioxide by turning it into shell using the metal nickel.
Many sea creatures convert carbon dioxide into calcium carbonate to form their shells and bones. This process triggered the interest of the team and made them look into the technique, which these animals use.
The researchers found high concentrations of nickel on the external skeletons of larvae of sea urchins. They conducted an experiment, which showed that when adding nickel particles to a solution of carbon dioxide in water, the nickel removed the CO2.
Dr Lidija Siller from Newcastle University explained that nickel nanoparticles trap much more carbon than normal, which then could be easily converted to calcium carbonate.
Current research focuses on capturing CO2 from electricity generating stations or chemical plants, and transferring it to former oil wells, risking a possible carbon leak.
The researchers form Newcastle, however, propose that instead of storing it as carbon, we should try to convert it in another substance, such as calcium carbonate or magnesium carbonate. Until now, this has been done using the expensive enzyme- carbon anhydrase.
Gaurav Bhadury, the lead author on the research paper, and a PhD student at Newcastle stated that using nickel is far more economic, since it is not influenced by pH of water and can be re-captured and re-used. In addition, the element is cheap and the by-product, calcium carbonate, is environmentally friendly.
The researchers are convinced that the technique can turn emissions from power plants into calcium carbonate at a very limited cost.