Increasing global temperature resulting from the increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is one of the greatest problems facing society. Nevertheless, coal plants remain the largest source of electrical energy and carbon dioxide gas. For this reason, researchers are searching for methods to reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere from the combustion of coal.
Mineral sequestration of carbon dioxide reacted in electrolyte solutions at 185°C and 2200 psi with olivine (magnesium silicate) has been shown to produce environmentally benign carbonates. However, to make this method feasible for industrial applications, the reaction rate needs to be increased.
Two methods were employed to increase the rate of mineral sequestration: reactant composition and concentration were altered independently in various runs. The products were analyzed with complete combustion for total carbon content. Crystalline phases in the product were analyzed with Debye-Scherrer X-ray powder diffraction.
To understand the reaction mechanism, single crystals of San Carlos Olivine were reacted in two solutions: (0.64 M NaHCO3/1 M NaCl) and (5.5 M KHCO3) and analyzed with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS), and fluctuation electron microscopy (FEM) to study the surface morphology, atomic crystalline structure, composition and amorphous structure.
From solution chemistry studies, it was found that increasing the activity of the bicarbonate ion increased the conversion rate of carbon dioxide to magnesite. The fastest conversion, 60% conversion in one hour, occurred in a solution of 5.5 M KHCO3. The reaction product particles, magnesium carbonate, significantly increased in both number density and size on the coupon when the bicarbonate ion activity was increased.
During some experiments reaction vessel corrosion also altered the mineral sequestration mechanism. Nickel ions from vessel corrosion led to nickel precipitation in the carbonate particles and the lack of an amorphous silica reaction layer on the olivine. It was concluded that nickel ions destabilized the silica passivation layer and led to faster growth of carbonate precipitates. Overall, nickel ions increased the reaction rate of mineral sequestration of carbon dioxide.