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Scientists create game-changing device to defuse planet-warming gas: 'Very few methods are able to efficiently remove [it]'

"It turns out that three-quarters of methane emissions are from low-concentration sources."

“It turns out that three-quarters of methane emissions are from low-concentration sources."

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Researchers are developing a radical system that uses chlorine atoms to hunt down and defuse planet-warming methane in animal barns.

If the setup proves scalable, it could greatly reduce methane output from livestock and agriculture, which the federal government blames for 37% of human-caused production of the gas. The impact is great, as methane has more than 80 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide during the first two decades "it reaches the atmosphere," the Environmental Defense Fund reports

Worse yet, methane is often jettisoned from the hindquarters of creatures on farms that are low-concentration sources. The problem is that there are a lot of them dispersed around the planet. That makes large-scale capture efforts difficult, according to a report on the science by Anthropocene. 

By contrast, Turkmenistan leads the world in super-emitter methane events, often from aging pipes and infrastructure from the dirty energy sector. The leaks can add hundreds of tons of air pollution to our environment an hour, but they can be more easily detected and dealt with than smaller episodes. 

"It turns out that three-quarters of methane emissions are from low-concentration sources," said study lead author Matthew Johnson, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

That's why the research published by IOP Science could be a game-changer for methane mitigation on a lower scale. 

"Despite the urgent need, very few methods are able to efficiently remove methane from waste air with low cost," the study's experts wrote in IOP. 

It works by subjecting chlorine to a high dose of UV light. The UV power breaks the chlorine into two atoms. These atoms become free radicals that "naturally seek out hydrogen," which is a part of methane, per Anthropocene. 

In essence, the UV turns the atoms into methane-seeking planet-savers, as the chlorine removes hydrogen from the methane, causing it to "decompose" more quickly, according to the online publication's description. 

The chemistry happened in a contraption made from a metal box with a pipe network that the experts constructed to gather the chlorine and methane together. Tests showed that up to 90% of methane was mitigated, leaving recyclable hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and monoxide. Anthropocene reports that the latter two leavings "can be diverted before they're released, if the device is paired with capture technologies." 

Experts elsewhere are working on projects that capture air pollution, pumping it underground for safe storage. Other methane-mitigating breakthroughs include microbes that eat the gas. The innovations are crucial to neutralizing a fume that's a main culprit in regard to our planet's overheating

"Next we are going to test the system on exhaust air in the field, at an agricultural research station," Johnson said in the Anthropocene report

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