Clean coal is the most elusive of green energy technologies–so elusive that nobody is sure if it’s even possible. A New Jersey-based startup called Carbozyme not only thinks it is, the company also believes that human blood holds the key.
When CO2 is produced during respiration, an enzyme called carbonic anhydrase turns it into biocarbonate for easy transportation into the lungs. Once in the lungs, carbon anhydrase turns the bicarbonate back into CO2, at which point it is exhaled. Carbozyme thinks a similar system could be used to safely bury coal underground. The startup’s system uses millions of tiny porous tubes covered in a synthetic version of carbonic anhydrase to turn gases from coal plant smokestacks into biocarbonate and then back into pure CO2 for storage in underground basalt rock. According to Carbozyme, the process uses a third less energy than other CO2 storage methods.
Carbozyme’s process isn’t ready for prime-time yet, however. The company is running a pilot project at the University of North Dakota, which could eventually lead to licensing for power plants. And who knows? Carbozyme might just beat the multi-billion dollar DOE clean coal project to market.
[Via Popular Science]