Did you know that a common rock, peridotite, soaks up carbon dioxide (CO2)? Now you do. This amazing discovery has been making eyebrows raise since it's publication in the November 11 issue of the "Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences." But just how much it soaks up and how we can properly exploit this CO2-hungry rock is still anybody's guess.
Periodite is an abundant rock found in the Earth's mantle. When it comes into contact with carbon dioxide, it transforms the gas into a solid, making more rock of the carbonate family, limestone, calcite or marble. However, it does this very slowly in amounts too tiny to make a big dent in the amount of greenhouse gasses floating around.
But what if we helped periodite along a little, so that this CO2 soaking affect is amplified so that it does begin to help? This is the question posed by Columbia University geologist Peter Keleman, who has teamed up with geochemist Jeurg Matter to find a way of "supercharging" periodoite so that it can soak up to one million times more CO2 than usual.
They estimate that peridotite can take away 2 - 4 billion tons of carbon dioxide. On average, 30 billion tons are made per year by humans. 10% of that might not seem like much, but, hey, every little bit helps.
The Columbia University pair says that drilling into periodoite and filling it with hot water containing pressurized carbon dioxide will be enough to get the job done. They did an experiment in Oman over the past year which they hope to reproduce in many other places to make powerful carbon sinks.
Plans to mine periodite and take it and supercharging equipment to manufacturing smokestacks have been scrapped. Now, it's hoped that countries naturally rich in periodite (like most of the Middle East, Papua New Guinea, Caledonia and bits of the state of California) would make carbon sinks to help clear their air. This means all of the other places in the world still have to clean up their act and pursue other ways of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
This rock will not save us, but it can help us put together yet another layer in the fight against climate change. We will still need to reduce, recycle and reuse. We still need to find alternate sources of fuel and to force big business to clean up their wasteful ways.
The supercharging process of peridotite would have to most likely take place underground in order to store all of the calcite and marble that will be made, which inevitably leads to the question: who will have all the marbles?