These Micro Motors Could Help Remove CO2 from Ocean Water

All the ocean water of the beautiful earth getting contaminated at a slow but consistent rate. The atmosphere changes have been showing adverse effects on the sea. Scientists over the world appears very much worried as the expanding contamination may crush the eco diversity of and ocean in near future. In an attempt to make a difference researcher’s at University of California, San Diego have developed micro motors that move through water without any human intervention outside control, removing Carbon-Di-Oxide (CO2) from water and converting it into usable compound – Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3). A way to free up the environment from carbon footprint.

The nano machines contain an enzyme called “carbonic anhydrase“ and  have an external polymer surface to hold the enzyme. The enzyme acts to speed up the reaction between carbon dioxide and water to form bicarbonate. The continuous movement of the machines if used in large quantity could possibly speed up the CO2 conversion process at a given area.

The movement of the micro motors is facilitated by the addition of a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the enzyme solution, which reacts with the inner platinum surface of the micro motor wall and generates a stream of oxygen bubbles that propel them through the water at speeds exceeding 100 micrometers per second.

Researchers of University of California, San Diego has observed in lab that the micro motors managed to remove up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from a solution of deionized water within five minutes. Also a Similar effect has been observed in seawater solution where the tiny machines removed 88 percent of CO2. Once their job is done, the micro motors can be recovered from the water solution and reused for further carbon dioxide sequestration.

Underwater-Micro-Motor

However there is a flip side of it, the utilization of hydrogen peroxide as the micro motor fuel is a disadvantage in light of the fact that it is an extra additive and requires the utilization of costly platinum metal to build the micro motors. As a next step, the research team is planning to make carbon-capturing micro motors that can be motion triggered by water.

“If the micro motors can use the environment as fuel, they will be more scalable, environmentally-friendly and less expensive,” said Kevin Kaufman, co-author of the study and an undergraduate in the team led by nano engineering professor Joseph Wang. “In the future, we could potentially use these micro motors as part of a water treatment system, like a water de-carbonation plant.”

This is definitely a great attempt made by these group, but were wondering could these impact the marine eco system in any other way as a side effect. What marine ling creatures end up having one of these micro motors right inside them, what if these motors come in contact to marine plants? Well we hope the scientists would certainly pay attention to this probable side before taking the launch decisions. Anyway this research has to travel further miles before it is matured so the aqua world has time before they start raising their eyebrows.

Author – Abhishek Ghosh

Article Inspiration

Journal Reference:

  1. Murat Uygun, Virendra V. Singh, Kevin Kaufmann, Deniz A. Uygun, Severina D. S. de Oliveira, Joseph Wang. Micromotor-Based Biomimetic Carbon Dioxide Sequestration: Towards Mobile Microscrubbers. Angewandte Chemie, 2015; DOI:10.1002/ange.201505155

 

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