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Researchers discover hidden seaweed benefit that could revolutionize the energy sector: 'We have no time to lose'

If we are to meet our targets for addressing the overheating of our planet, we have no time to lose.

SINTEF’s seaweed cultivation project

Photo Credit: iStock

Seaweed could play a major role in reversing Earth's rising temperatures, according to new findings out of Norway.

Researchers at the Norwegian science institute SINTEF are exploring seaweed's capacity to capture and store carbon dioxide — one of the main polluting gases contributing to Earth's rising temperatures. More specifically, the scientists are turning seaweed into something called "biocoal," which they will be adding to soil.

Biocoal is a carbon-neutral fuel, meaning it removes as much carbon from the atmosphere (or ocean) as it releases if it is burned. Many industries are interested in the substance for its ability to replace regular coal as well as other dirty energy sources.

The aim of the SINTEF research, however, is instead to see how adding their biocoal to soil can improve agricultural capacities while also removing polluting gases from the air. 

The scientists stated that the addition of biocoal to soil is meant to improve soil porosity (the quality of having tiny holes for water and oxygen to pass through). It will also increase water-binding capacity and "create favorable conditions for the growth of microorganisms," per Phys.org

A fertilizer that's also derived from seaweed will be mixed with the biocoal. 

As for the seaweed-based biocoal's ability to reduce carbon dioxide levels, the little ocean plant is something of a superstar. If SINTEF's current expansion plan works, it could be removing 3,000 tons of carbon gas annually by 2030. 

That's significant, given that experts say we'll need to remove six billion tons of polluting carbon gas per year from the atmosphere by 2050 to bring Earth's temperatures back down to a level targeted by international agreements.

SINTEF's seaweed cultivation project could mean groundbreaking changes in the way we grow crops, creating better harvests while pulling polluting gases from the air.

"If we are to meet our climate change mitigation targets, we have no time to lose in removing CO2 from the atmosphere," Jorunn Skjermo, a research scientist at the Norwegian science institute SINTEF, told Phys.org.

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