Common mineral could be key to tackling climate change
A team of international researchers led by a University of Canterbury (UC) Engineering academic, believe they have discovered a potentially revolutionary key to reducing climate change impacts.
Associate Professor Allan Scott is leading a team of international researchers who have discovered a new method of producing magnesium hydroxide, which they believe is key to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Associate Professor Scott explains magnesium hydroxide has been widely recognised as one of the most promising materials for ‘carbon mineralization’ (where carbon dioxide or CO₂ is prevented from entering the atmosphere), but until now there hasn’t been an energy-efficient way of producing it.
“Most processes to get magnesium hydroxide typically involve CO₂ emissions. We are proposing a new method to produce magnesium hydroxide from olivine; an abundant mineral here in New Zealand and around the world. Our method uses existing technology, produces useful by-products and most importantly there’s low to zero CO₂ emitted during the process.”
In the new paper published in Communications Earth & Environment, the researchers outline that olivine can be ground into powder, combined with hydrochloric acid and a process of electrolysis can be used to produce magnesium hydroxide. Lab trials showed that 100 tonnes of olivine could potentially produce 35 tonnes of magnesium hydroxide, as well as 35 tonnes of amorphous silicate – a material used in products such as semiconductor circuits and cement.
“The discovery of this method has the potential to have a dramatic impact on our ability to reduce global CO₂ emissions,” Associate Professor Scott says.