Scientists from Melbourne’s RMIT University have developed a way to convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into solid carbon at room temperature.
Their technique uses a specially designed liquid metal composed of gallium, indium and tin, with a layer of cerium oxide and cerium nanoparticles on the outside. The gallium core makes the alloy a liquid, while the cerium outside makes for an efficient electricity conductor and a chemically active surface.
By adding a small amount of the liquid metal to an electrolyte liquid (dimethylformamide-based in RMIT’s experiment) along with dissolved CO2 and passing an electrical current through the mixture, flakes of carbon develop on the metal’s surface.
Because of the liquid metal’s reduced van der Waals forces, the flakes of carbon will detach over time. Not only does this prevent the catalyst becoming deactivated by coking; it enables continuous production of carbon.
Most methods for turning CO2 into a solid use high temperatures. Bringing down the temperature makes RMIT’s method industrially viable. However, the amount of electricity needed to break down enough CO2 to put a dent in the 40 billion tonnes of anthropological CO2 produced per year remains to be seen.
The carbon can be used for industrial purposes, as an electrode, for example, or can be stored to remove it from the atmosphere. Storing carbon as a solid reduces the chance of leaks that happen when compressing CO2 in conventional carbon capture and storage (CCS).
Cybersecurity consultant Julian Gutmanis has provided additional details about the 2017 Saudi malware attack on which he was a first responder. His comments at the S4X19 industrial security conference earlier this year have raised concerns about a future cyberattack on industrial sites.
A Saudi petrochemical plant was struck by a piece of malware called Triton in summer 2017. The program allowed hackers to hijack the facility’s safety instrumented systems. It hit multiple systems in the plant, including the sulphur recovery unit and the burner management systems.
Most cyberattacks have targeted money or personal data. This was the first attack to put human lives directly at risk.
The 2017 Saudi hack was detected owing to a flaw in the code that triggered the safety system and shut down the plant. Gutmanis noted that the workers at the plant had ignored antivirus warnings and unusual traffic on its system.
However, he noted that these failings were not unique to the Saudi plant, with many US plants showing similar lapses in security.
A year and a half after it was first detected, cybersecurity groups have still been unable to identify who designed the code and who was behind the attack.
Cybersecurity company Dragos, where Gutmanis currently works, has warned that the code’s creators are working on new versions of Triton to attack more safety systems.
Companies will need to increase cybersecurity and maintain a watchful eye in order to prevent the world’s first fatal cybersecurity attack. As the industrial internet of things develops and connections increase, so does the risk of a catastrophic cyberattack. This is especially true for older technology – while their security protocols may be out of date, they are still connected in the network and provide a weak spot for hackers to target.
Aramco wants to drive own demand
Saudi Aramco made its Geneva International Motor Show debut in March to showcase its transport technologies.
The company will display its gasoline compression ignition that mixes fuel and air more effectively prior to combustion, producing lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) and soot emissions, and improves fuel economy 30%.
It will also showcase its on-board carbon capture technology. When added to a car it can reduce carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) at a cost of US$1,400.
Aramco CTO Ahmad Al-Khowaiter said that demand for alternative drivetrains would not rise fast enough to meet growing transportation needs and keep down GHG emissions.
That said, Aramco’s focus on creating more efficient and cleaner burning internal combustion engines (ICEs) will also help ensure a market for its oil products in the face of growing competition from electric vehicles (EVs).
The question remains whether Aramco’s efforts will be in vain. The volume of EVs on display in Geneva shows that electrification is on every automaker’s agenda, and Honda used the exhibition to reaffirm its commitment to total European electrification by 2025.
However, there were still plenty diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles on display, showing that most companies will be looking to invest in traditional vehicles for the foreseeable future. With high levels of investments still tied up in ICE, it is doubtful that carmakers will phase out production before they have made the majority of the return from their investments.
For the foreseeable future, Aramco can count on continuing support for oil.
Boiling water is one of the chemical reactions on which society is built. But there are gaps in our understanding of this common reaction. New research from MIT has shed light on critical heat flux, also called boiling crisis.
This occurs when a sheet of vapour forms on the surface of a conductor, inhibiting the transfer of heat. However, the theory as to how and why this happens is poorly understood.
While not an obstacle to making a cup of tea, when this happens in a nuclear power plant (NPP) it can prevent heat radiating from fuel rods into the water coolant, damaging components in the reactor. In order to avoid this, most NPPs operate around 75% below levels that might trigger critical heat flux.
The MIT research found that once the density of bubbles on a surface reaches a threshold, they are more likely to merge together and create an insulating vapour layer. By analysing patterns of bubble density, the scientists can predict when and where bubbles will coalesce.
This information can be used to redesign the surface of a heating element either to inhibit bubble growth or ensure they develop in such a way that stops them merging.
Better understanding of the phenomenon could help researchers find ways to minimise the boiling crisis. NPPs could run at higher temperatures and produce more power.
High-performance super-computers and transformers frequently use liquid cooling techniques, where the electronics are immersed in a non-electrically conductive liquid. More efficient heat transfer will help them run at higher levels.