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Scientists develop proof-of-concept device that uses air pollution to produce electricity: 'We will now work on improving efficiency and reducing cost'

Scientific breakthroughs like this one are so crucial to the future of our planet.

Scientific breakthroughs like this one are so crucial to the future of our planet.

Photo Credit: UQ News

Scientists in Australia have developed a device that can generate electricity while also eating up planet-overheating air pollution, Anthropocene Magazine reported.

University of Queensland professor of chemical engineering Xiwang Zhang, along with several colleagues, created a proof-of-concept device (not yet named) that can remove carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into usable electricity.

While many researchers around the world are hard at work developing ways to generate power that are carbon neutral, Professor Zhang and his colleagues have gone a step further: creating an electricity-generating device that is carbon negative. The scientists published their findings in the scientific journal Nature

The device is not close to being commercially viable yet, as it is only able to generate small amounts of electricity, but the concept is more than intriguing. The researchers speculated that it could eventually turn into a portable generator for small electronics, such as phones. 

Or, dreaming even bigger, it could be integrated into an industrial carbon capture plant, which would help cool the plant and also remove harmful pollutants from the air that contribute to human health concerns such as asthma, per the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.  

"At present we can harvest around one per cent of the total energy carried intrinsically by carbon dioxide but like other technologies, we will now work on improving efficiency and reducing cost," Zhuyuan Wang, another of the researchers and the lead author of the paper, said in a press release.

The overheating of our planet, which has led to increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events, has largely been caused by the carbon dioxide that is released when we burn dirty energy sources like gas and oil. 

"If global energy demand continues to grow rapidly and we meet it mostly with fossil fuels, human emissions of carbon dioxide could reach 75 billion tons per year or more by the end of the century. Atmospheric carbon dioxide could be 800 ppm or higher—conditions not seen on Earth for close to 50 million years," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wrote in an explainer on carbon dioxide.

That's why scientific breakthroughs like this one, which could potentially provide us with an alternative to dirty energy sources while also mitigating the harm that those sources have caused, are so crucial to the future of our planet.

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