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Rock on: Crushing rocks could capture CO2 equivalent to the size of Germany

Breaking news out of Glasgow, Scotland: Researchers have discovered a revolutionary new method for trapping carbon dioxide that is guaranteed to rock your world. Literally.

The study, detailed in a research paper called ‘Mechanochemical processing of silicate rocks to trap CO2’ from the University of Strathclyde, suggests that the normal crushing of rocks commonly used in construction has the potential to revolutionise the way we approach carbon capture and storage.

The technique – which involves no additional energy to trap the CO2 – involves the deformation, fracturing and cold wielding of particles during repeated collisions with a ball during high-energy milling.

“It’s like putting your CO2 in a rock tumbler and watching it get trapped,” lead researcher Professor Rebecca Lunn said.

“We’re essentially turning rocks into superheroes. They have the power to save the world.”

Imagine 357,000 square kilometres of carbon dioxide, with no additional energy required to trap it. The amount of 0.5% of global emissions would be the equivalent to planting a forest of mature trees the size of Germany’s Black Forest … times 60.

The construction and materials sector are responsible for 11 per cent of total carbon emissions worldwide. Annually, over 50 billion tonnes of rock are crushed globally, and conventional crushing techniques do not typically include CO2 capture.

Earlier studies have investigated the entrapment of carbon in individual minerals using a similar approach, but the latest research shows that this approach is unstable, causing the carbon to dissolve out of the mineral when exposed to water.

The new study shows that polymineralic rocks, such as granite and basalt, whether high or low in carbonate-forming metals, are more efficient at trapping CO2 than individual minerals, such as magnesium and iron, which were used in precious studies.

“If this process was applied, the CO2 footprint associated with building houses and public infrastructure could be greatly reduced, helping to meet global objectives to combat climate change,” said co-investigator Dr Mark Stillings.

Of course, as you can imagine, people on social media had a field day with the news.

“It’s official: the Flintstones were ahead of their time,” one person said.

“I, for one, welcome our new rock overlords,” said another.

And: “I can’t wait for the day when we all have little rock crushers in our homes, churning out CO2-absorbing pebbles like some kind of bizarre garden appliance.”

So, if you hear a loud banging sound coming from your neighbour’s house, don’t be too alarmed.

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